Discovering yourself through involvement


University of Akron student Hannah Barnes.

Student Hannah Barnes, a graphic design major, shows off UA’s involvement in Walls of Love, nationwide initiative that provides basic necessities via community walls.

If there’s one thing senior Hannah Barnes remembers being drastically different than high school, it’s the number of wide-open opportunities and student organizations The University of Akron (UA) presented to her.

Barnes, a Lorain native who’s majoring in graphic design, has been involved in more than a dozen organizations and programs since her first year. And currently she’s in the Student Art League, the Akron Painting and Drawing League, serveAkron and the Collegiate Success Scholar program. Barnes has participated in leadership programming as an Honors Scholar in the Williams Honors College, and through the College of Business, which offers skills development for non-business majors.

“When I was in high school, we didn’t really have a lot of opportunities, we didn’t really have that many clubs,” said Barnes. “I’ve always kind of been ambitious, and I wanted to be involved as much as possible on campus because I really wanted to explore new hobbies and new opportunities and new projects. And I thought it would be fun to continue to explore new things here.”

UA has become somewhat of a playground for Barnes. Kayaking, for instance, was an unexpected hobby she stumbled upon during an organized trip through UA’s Student Recreation and Wellness Center. And she’s participated in national service events like Make a Difference Day, thanks to the opportunities presented to her at UA.

“You can participate in activities that have nothing to do with your major,” Barnes said. “I’m a graphic design major and I recently discovered that I really like to kayak because I took the kayaking trip by the rec center, and it was so fun.”

'Opportunities to become involved'

UA provides a canvas of opportunity, and just like in her classes for her painting minor, Barnes uses vibrant strokes of passion and determination to color in her dreams. And with a whopping 300 student organizations and 22 fraternities and sororities, UA is a hub for experiential learning, skills development and career preparedness.

In 2022 alone, more than 3,400 students, including Barnes, completed 14,404 service hours among programs coordinated by the Department of Student Life through serveAkron and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

“Being involved so much, you definitely learn skills and develop skills," said Barnes. "Being the president of student art league, I had to manage the club basically. I learned how to talk to large groups of people, and I learned the ins and outs of running the behind-the-scenes stuff. And I’ve learned a lot of communication skills, which is going to be really important after graduation.”

The beauty of UA's offerings lies in their versatility. By participating in leadership opportunities and other student organizations, Barnes found herself venturing into uncharted territories beyond the visual arts, like marketing and communication, thanks to her previous role as the marketing coordinator for Zips Racing Electric, a student-design team in the College of Engineering and Polymer Science.

“I never took a marketing class at the university, but I have marketing experience because I participated in the College of Business leadership program, and that really helped me to develop myself so I could transfer those skills over to other parts of either my major or other clubs I was involved in so I could be more confident in myself and deal with other responsibilities.”

But beyond gaining skills, UA's organizations weave a tapestry of connections. It's not just about majors; it's about shared interests and passions, creating a network of like-minded individuals.

“UA [is] a great place to start your college journey because not only is there a great sense of community, but there’s a lot of opportunities to become involved,” Barnes said. “They have so many organizations on campus. And even if you can’t find a single one you’re interested in, you can create your own, which I think is a really great thing.”

Media contact: Cristine Boyd, 330-972-6476 or