Banana Slugs aren't the type to be satisfied with the status quo.

For example, when they felt there wasn't enough being done on an environmental level, both on and off campus, they started a fund to finance students' good ideas. When there wasn't a dodgeball team, they created one. When they wanted to tango or do stand-up comedy, they formed those groups, too.

Students have begun theater companies, started glossy magazines, formed dance troupes and a cappella singing groups, and initiated athletic teams and academic societies.

"UC Santa Cruz students are more than just creative—they have a lot of drive and self-direction, whether they are showing off their artistic talents, reaching out to communities off campus, or offering entertainment, inspiration, or support to their fellow Slugs," said Campus Provost Alison Galloway. "It's gratifying to see student-initiated, student-organized, and student-led groups being such a big part of the community here."

These groups provide not only entertainment and social outlets, said Galloway, but real life lessons. "For example, you'd better hone your debating chops if you ever go up against the campus's mock trial team," she said, "and you will tread more lightly on the Earth if you've been involved with the Student Environmental Center, which promotes student involvement in sustainability through research and education."

Student-organized groups also teach students how to lead, how to coordinate, and how to live.

Chris Silva, 21 (Stevenson '13, human biology), is currently the director of the UCSC Student Volunteer Center. He's a hard-working student, but he's already a leader, overseeing a staff of two—an operations director and a programs director— along with several interns.

"Volunteering provides opportunities to apply skills you use in classrooms while giving you real-world experience dealing with people and real-life situations you just don't get in classrooms," said Silva.

Aside from being good for the soul, volunteering can help students demonstrate and build empathy. Silva hopes to be a physician, in part because of a medical emergency in his family. "Part of being a physician is the knowledge and skill sets for a clinical setting, but you also need the sympathy and empathy to provide adequate care for someone in rehabilitation."

The Volunteer Center works with a number of nonprofits and public services in the Santa Cruz area, including the Walnut Avenue Women's Center and the Jesus, Mary and Joseph Home.

Another member of the UCSC community, Sayo Fujioka, is unusually qualified to talk about student leadership at UCSC. She started off as a UCSC student, then went on to be a staff advisor to campus organizations, and is currently director of Student Organization Advising and Resources. "UCSC attracts students with drive and initiative to make the world better," she said.

And the campus gives them valuable opportunities.

"UCSC provides students with realtime leadership experiences," Fujioka said. For instance, SOAR, along with Student Media/Cultural Arts and Diversity, gives students a chance to oversee university programs and activities in partnership with staff, faculty, and alumni mentors.

"These university mentors provide trainings, retreats, advising, and support, but students are the ones who have the responsibility for the decisions and outcomes of their programs," Fujioka said.

It's not surprising that many UCSC movers and shakers go on to big things post-graduation. The current and past presidents of the United States Student Association in Washington, D.C., are both graduates of UCSC and were leaders in the Student Union Assembly.

Go to giving.ucsc.edu/students to see how you can help support the student experience.