By Heidi McClarnon
National Student Organizations (NSO) is a Johnson & Wales term used for eight career and technical associations recognized in high schools throughout the nation. JWU has been awarding NSO scholarships to incoming students for more than four decades.
Initially scholarships were presented to DECA business and marketing students and quickly spread to include such vocational organizations as Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), SkillsUSA (formerly known as SkillsUSA-VICA) and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). What started as a way to recognize motivated students and assist them financially with tuition quickly led to establishing the NSO.
In addition to awarding scholarships, the department encourages recipients to continue their involvement with the organizations on the college level. Historically, students who join these organizations in high school have been strong matches with JWU’s career-oriented education philosophy and programs. Members make a tremendous impact on campuses and are among the university’s most successful alumni.
Throughout its 40-year history, JWU NSO has sent thousands of students to national competitions. Students have conducted and attended countless leadership conferences and clocked hundreds of community service hours. In the 1980s and ’90s, the Providence Campus’ Airport Center East (ACE), Regency Plaza and Renaissance Hall were residence halls exclusively for NSO members. Students were actively involved in campus-based programs that allowed them to raise funds to support scholarships and conference travel.
Like any good organization, NSO continues to evolve and change. Within the last decade, four divisions were created, and students can now focus on competitive events, community service, communications or leadership. Members have established a competition training institute, taken part in international service-learning trips to Mexico and Morocco, met with the marketing departments at Comedy Central and the Food Network in New York City and organized and hosted regional leadership conferences.
Today more than 3,200 NSO students are enrolled at JWU, making up more than 22 percent of the total enrollment.
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