University Center Activities & Events (UCAE)

Starting a Student Organization

Before you begin the creation of a student organization ask yourself the following:

  • Do I have the time and energy to maintain an organization (communication, accounting, group dynamics, and recruitment)?
  • What do I want the organization to do? What would the mission/purpose of the group be?
  • Is there already a group on campus that I can join that accomplishes my intention? (check our list)
  • Do I have a full-time faculty or staff member to support my organization? (2011-2012 Advisor Agreement can be downloaded here)

Creating a student organization is a linear process, but it is important to understand the steps involved:

Initial Planning
The initial planning step is the part of the process over which you, as the founder(s), will have the greatest amount of input and control. During initial planning you should be concerned with creating a clear and motivational purpose for the organization to exist. At this point you may want to discuss and structure how the group will be administered, whether it will consist of equally powered chairs or a strong president, etc.

Preparing a constitution is a great way to clarify your goals and structure. A constitution is also required for recognition.

Applying for Recognition
All groups who wish to receive the support of the university (resources, advice, and name) must be officially recognized by an entity at Duke. The most common recognition source for undergraduates is the Student Organization Finance Committee (SOFC) of the Duke Student Government. The most common recognition source for graduate and professional students is through the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) student organization liaison.

Groups can also be recognized by campus departments (academic, student affairs, administrative); however, there are considerable drawbacks for undergraduate groups who are departmentally recognized. Undergraduate organizations that are departmentally recognized do not have access to a significant amount of funding through the SOFC and do not receive a financial account through UCAE. If you would like more information about the different recognition options please contact the Student Involvement Team and schedule an appointment.

To apply for recognition your organization will need to collect and present the following information:

  • The contact information for your president and treasurer
  • The contact information for your full-time faculty/staff advisor (not applicable for GPSC recognition)
  • Ten (10) signatures of students who wish for the organization to exist
  • A constitutiton that states your organization's purpose/mission
  • A completed new group application

Undergraduate groups wishing to seek recognition from SOFC should visit their site for the application materials. Undergraduate groups wishing to seek recognition from a campus department should have the department contact UCAE once arrangements have been made to notify us of the recognition status. Graduate and professional groups wishing to seek GPSC recognition should contact the GPSC student organization liaison.

Once you have completed the necessary steps for recognition as specified above, Duke considers your group to be officially recognized. Undergraduate groups should schedule an appointment with the Student Involvement Team to go over university policies and to set up your organization's on-campus back account. Organizations must also list their information in DukeGroups. The DukeGroups directory serves as the official list of student organizations at Duke, informing university departments that your group should be able to access resources.

Once listed on the DukeGroups directory your group is eligible to reserve space on campus. Please stop by UCAE and speak with our Event Coordinator to help you plan recruitment events to build your membership.

Most groups wish to coordinate events or activities that align with their mission. There are many funding sources at Duke. For most SOFC-recognized groups the SOFC Programming Fund will be the first place to seek funding for general events. SOFC meets weekly to hear requests for funds. Allocations range (on average) from $20 - $2,000+ per event. The SOFC Programming Fund is designed specifically for undergraduate student organization events at Duke.


  • If you would like to meet with someone to discuss your new group idea, please contact the Student Involvement Team (919-684-4741)
  • If you would like to meet with someone in UCAE to help you plan events, including recruitment events, contact the Student Activities office.