Chinese student organizations move recruitment date ahead due to competition

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EAST LANSING – Chao Shen arrives at Bessey Hall early morning one weekend morning in January. He’s wearing a shirt and tie with a stack of evaluation forms in his hand. He is a member of the Chinese Undergraduate Students Association, and he’s here to interview potential new members.

Every semester, CUSA interviews candidates to select new members, but this year is a little different: The recruitment is half a month earlier than last spring.

One reason for the earlier date is that another Chinese student organization, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, set its recruitment date, one day before CUSA’s.

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association was established in 1995, and with more than 100 members, it’s still the biggest Chinese student organization at MSU. The rival group, the Chinese Undergraduate Students Association, was established in 2007 and has about 90 members.

With over 4,200 Chinese students on MSU campus, those two major Chinese student organizations bring all kinds of activities to enrich their lives in a foreign country. For example, CUSA hosts the Spring festival gala to make students who are not able to reunion with families feel like home; on the other hand, CSSA hosts the temple fair to promote traditional Chinese culture.

Their ultimate goal is the same: to serve all Chinese students at MSU, but they also believe that a small competition is good for both sides.

Lingfanglu Han

Yilu Yang (left) , an executive board member of Chinese Undergraduate Students Association, works with her team after interviewing potential new members.

“We advanced our recruitment because the other Chinese students organization did so, and if we didn’t do it, we would have limited choices,” said Yilu Yang, the programming leader and a member of CUSA’s executive board. Yang was interviewed in Chinese and her remarks were translated into English.

This spring, only 11 people signed up for CUSA’s programming department, way fewer than the 40 who signed up last fall. Overall numbers for new members were not yet available.

“Recruiting members in spring is harder than fall semester because there aren’t too many newly enrolled Chinese students in spring, and sophomores and juniors are less likely to sign up for student organizations if they didn’t join in the first place,” said Shen.

Timing is crucial. Wendan Tan, the executive board member of CSSA, explained that if a student signs up for two organizations at the same time, the one which has earlier recruitment date would have priority to select more talented students.

“The advantage is obvious,” Tan said.  

Besides bringing the recruitment date forward, the real battle has started in the summer, before freshmen even enroll.

The competing groups each established their own community by using WeChat, the most popular social media in China, and added Chinese students who planned to attend Michigan State in the following semesters. In those chat groups, members of each organization will be the guides to answer questions from freshmen and their parents, from academic to daily life.

“It’s very important for us to be the first Chinese student organization they (freshmen) know before coming to MSU,” Tan said. “Those freshmen WeChat groups not only help us promote our later events, they also attract more students to sign up our organization, which is the key factor of keeping an organization alive.”