Sherwynn Umali
Clubs offer opportunities to assume leadership and help students develop more balanced lives, says Sherwynn Umali, director of campus organizations. Michelle S. Kim / University Communications

No matter what your passion, chances are there’s a UC Irvine club that caters to it: anime, classic cars, fashion, sports, astronomy, computers, photography, debate, film, books, Greek life, motorcycles … even tango.

There are groups for diverse political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds; associations devoted to service and activism; and organizations for Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists.

You can find like-minded others, a new hobby, a career path, even your center (yes, there’s a meditation group.)

“Clubs are vital to UCI life,” says alumna Sherwynn Umali, director of campus organizations. “They educate students outside the classroom.” Anteaters can peruse the various groups at the new Campus Organizations Web site.

“Our clubs are forever evolving. Every year, new ones form and others drop off, but the overall number continues to grow,” Umali says. “More organizations mean more leadership opportunities.”

Some groups give students a voice, letting them push for causes they care about, such as diversity. “The Cross-Cultural Center, the Rosa Parks- and César Chávez-themed houses in Arroyo Vista wouldn’t have happened without clubs getting involved,” Umali notes.

In other groups, students can hone skills used in all sorts of professions, from doctor to DJ. Want to learn the art of “turntablism”? The UCI chapter of Hip Hop Congress welcomes you.

Performance clubs like Jodaiko, a Japanese drumming ensemble, and the Southern Young Tigers Lion Dance Team drive campus events and promote cultural awareness, Umali says.

Kababayan, a Filipino student group, drew international attention to UCI last spring when six members of its Kaba Modern street dance team appeared on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.”

Service clubs like Circle K International have become the university’s best ambassadors to the community. Students tutor and teach (Jumpstart, MEChA’s La Escuelita program), feed the hungry (Students for Homeless Outreach United Together), shelter the homeless (Anteaters’ Habitat for Humanity), heal the sick (Flying Sams, Chicanos/Latinos for Community Medicine), build bridges and other vital infrastructure (Engineers Without Borders), and care for the planet (Students for Sustainability, Anteaters for Recycling & Conservation).

Umali, who graduated from UCI in 2003 and worked at the Cross-Cultural Center for four years, advises club members on marketing, advertising and event planning.

“She’s an outstanding resource for students, and the fact that she’s an alumna enhances her understanding of the campus experience,” says Rameen Talesh, acting dean of students.

While pursuing her bachelor’s in psychology & social behavior at UCI, Umali belonged to Kababayan and the Asian Pacific Student Association, and she assisted campus organizations at the Cross-Cultural Center through the Administrative Intern Program.

“Clubs can help you learn about your own identity and other people,” Umali says. “They make for a more balanced student.”