TXST’s 405 student organizations offer something for every Bobcat
By Matt Joyce
It’s a Thursday afternoon about two weeks into the fall 2023 semester and the LBJ Student Center’s two ballrooms are packed for the Student Organization Fair. Over four hours, nearly 2,500 students filter through to visit with fellow Bobcats representing 126 different student organizations.
With groups ranging from the Hispanic Student Association to the Quadball Club (aka Quidditch), TXST students have access to a wide range of activities that foster fun, friends, and personal development. In fact, TXST is home to 405 different student organizations, but only 126 booths would fit in the ballrooms for the fall fair.
Shortly after his arrival last year, President Kelly Damphousse declared elevating student success as a top priority of his Hopes and Aspirations High vision for TXST’s future. Student organizations play a key part in that by providing opportunities for students to engage with college life.
TXST’s student organizations reflect the diversity of the student body—there’s something for everyone. The 405 clubs cover the categories of academic, chartered, Greek, honors, multicultural, political, professional, recreational, religious, residential hall, service, special interest, and sports.
Here we look at three student organizations—Model Arab League, Bobcat Country, and TXST Climbing Club—to learn about their activities and how Bobcats engage with the wide range of clubs across campus.
Model Arab League
Diplomacy, negotiation, and the nuances of parliamentary procedure. Such fundamentals are a few of the educational building blocks for students involved in the Model Arab League at Texas State.
“I’m Jordanian American and I’m pursuing international relations in my degree, so being a part of Model Arab League made a lot of sense to me,” says Zayna Abdel-Rahim, a junior international studies major and the president of TXST’s Model Arab League club.
The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations created the Model Arab League to educate students interested in Arab politics and international relations. At Texas State, students meet weekly to prepare for role-playing competitions where they represent Arab League nations in meetings that mimic the Council of the Arab League. The TXST group has racked up numerous “outstanding delegation” awards for their performances since 2008.
This school year, TXST will represent Bahrain in a regional competition in Houston followed by a national competition in Washington, D.C. During the events, Texas State’s 11 club members break into councils to work with students representing other nations. Playing the role of Bahrain, the TXST students are charged with negotiating everything from the meeting’s agenda to thorny issues like border disputes and tariffs.
“They’ve got a couple of days of really substantive work,” says Elizabeth Bishop, the group’s faculty advisor and an associate professor of North Africa and Modern Arab history. “If they’re told to solve a literacy problem, for example, they have to come up with a solution. Maybe it’s a transnational government agency and they need to write the bylaws; or it’s a nongovernmental organization and they must figure out where the money’s going to come from.”
At their weekly meetings, the students prepare for the competitions by educating themselves about Bahrain’s policy positions and by learning parliamentary procedure. Bishop also hosts the group regularly for informal dinners to socialize and dine on regional Arab dishes.
In past years, the students have had opportunities to meet with diplomats from the countries they’re representing, giving them a chance drill down on the nation’s policy positions and nuances of diplomacy.
Abdel-Rahim says the Model Arab League provides valuable experience as she considers a career as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State. Practice in leadership, public speaking, and parliamentary procedure are all key benefits.
“Those are important to know in the realm of diplomacy and international relations,” she says. “Also, it’s being able to firmly represent a country’s beliefs in spite of perhaps not believing them myself, which really teaches me about what it means to be a diplomat.”
Jordan Stern, a senior lecturer of music education, says country music doesn’t get the attention it deserves in the halls of academia. So last year, he decided to start a student country-western band for Texas State University and posted flyers calling for members.
“I found way more students than I thought I would,” Stern says. “I got a bunch of equipment up here in the Music Building and reserved a place. I was hoping to scrape together enough people to make one band, but we had enough for three bands, which we eventually congealed down to two.”
Bobcat Country is now in its second year with 19 students and two bands. The two bands practice on Monday and Tuesday nights, respectively, and often team up for concerts with players switching on and off instruments.
“We’ve got a lot of singers, and the singers get to sing more if we have two backing bands, and we have enough players to do that,” Stern says.
Along with vocalists, the instrumentation includes fiddle, pedal steel guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, bass, and drums.
Stern says he facilitates the rehearsals, but he doesn’t direct them like a conductor. He encourages the students to train one another and play by ear. The group is inclusive, welcoming musicians who don’t have a background in country music and even people who don’t play instruments but want to learn.
“We’re a very open place,” adds Shane Kruse, a junior music education major and the club’s president. “We don’t turn anybody away.”
Stern encourages students to pick the repertoire for Bobcat Country, with one caveat. “We emphasize Texas country and prefer Texas artists,” he says.
Kruse, who plays pedal steel guitar in the band, says Texas State’s rich history in country music underscores the spirit of Bobcat Country. George Strait famously got his start with the Ace in the Hole Band when he was a student at TXST. Kruse also points to other notable former Bobcats including Charlie Robison and Randy Rogers.
Kruse says Strait’s “Ace in the Hole” is favorite song to perform: “It’s got a cool steel guitar part, and it’s a fast-moving song. It gets everybody moving every time.”
Looking forward, Stern says he’s working with the music school to make Bobcat Country a class next year and country music could eventually become an academic focus within the music school. But he intends to maintain Bobcat Country as a student organization as an option for students.
"We just like to make friends and play country music,” Kruse says. “We don’t plan on stopping any time soon.”
TXST Climbing Club
As Hayden Mitchell sees it, there are two kinds of people in the world—people who like rock climbing and people who haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
The prospect of scaling an indoor wall or outdoor cliff might be intimidating to some, but Mitchell, president of the Texas State Climbing Club, says the club’s welcoming atmosphere has helped many newcomers overcome their fears.
“Whenever people come to the climbing club the first time, there are people encouraging them,” says Mitchell, a business management major from The Woodlands. “And then they get to the top and everyone cheers for them and they’re like, ‘Man, that felt really cool. I want to do that again.’”
The club, which has 84 members, meets Tuesday nights at Armadillo Boulders, a San Marcos bouldering gym, and Thursday nights at the TXST Climbing Center, home to a 54-foot climbing wall.
Rock climbing involves scaling a wall or rock face while tied into a harness with ropes and a belay partner holding the rope to catch the climber if they fall. Bouldering is climbing without ropes at lower heights with safety pads on the ground to soften a climber’s fall.
Beyond the weekly meetings, the TXST Climbing Club also plans weekend trips to outdoor climbing destinations around the region including Reimers Ranch near Dripping Springs, Medicine Wall in San Antonio, and Enchanted Rock in Fredericksburg.
Mitchell says bouldering is a good way to get started because the only gear needed is climbing shoes and a chalk bag, both of which can be rented or borrowed. At the TXST Climbing Center, ropes and harnesses are provided, and many club members have equipment they're happy to share, Mitchell says.
“You don’t need to worry about all the equipment,” Mitchell says.
Mitchell says the group also organizes social outings after climbing for people to hang out and make friends. Even if the group goes out for pizza, climbers tend to be in good shape.
“It’s a great way to stay active, especially because it doesn’t even really feel like a workout while you're doing it,” Mitchell says. “It’s just a great way to build cardio, build core, and make your back, your shoulders, your grip strength really strong.”
Zachary Horan, a sophomore digital media innovation major from Burnet, joined the TXST Climbing Club this fall after hearing about it from a classmate. He was impressed by the supportive atmosphere.
“No matter what skill level you are, they take their time helping you out so that you can get better,” Horan says. “It’s rewarding because you can see your progress. One week you’ll be struggling on this one set, and then the next week if you continue practicing, you just fly through it.” ★