As a rising college student, deciding whether or not to continue doing DI, and in what capacity, can be a difficult decision to make. When I left high school, I concluded that I would take a step back from my participation in the program in preparation for a busy college career. However, as a lifelong participant, it quickly became very clear to me what a large role DI had played in my life, and how much I missed reading the Challenges with my team, getting our hands dirty building props and scenery, and, of course, the late nights before the tournament. In the last two years, my classmates and I have formed two teams at our university, started a DI club through our student union, organized volunteers to appraise at tournaments, and sent a winning team to Global Finals – so much more than we had originally dreamed! Starting a University Level team was a great experience, albeit a challenge in itself, and being a part of University Level (UL) DI has made me better appreciate how this program has changed my life. Here, I have compiled some tips and ideas which will help you get your new team off the ground.
The first step is the easiest: just talk! Your first few weeks of college, you will meet hundreds of new people. Make an effort to reach out and get to know them. Talk about your DI experiences and what makes you you. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get together a group of people who may be interested in starting a team. You may even find some students who, like yourself, have done DI before and want to continue in college. I met one of my best friends in college because one day I was wearing a T-shirt with a drawing of a mantis shrimp on the front and puffy paint on the back. She sat down next to me in the dining hall, and instead of looking at me like I had four heads, said “Hey, that looks like a DI shirt!”
Once you have a team together, you need to set goals for your first year. As a University Level team, there is little (and sometimes no) competition at the Regional and Affiliate levels, and many teams proceed directly to Global Finals. You can take this as an opportunity to present at a local tournament or take your performance all the way to the international tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee! Visiting your local tournaments is a great way to get to know your state’s directors and volunteers, and if you’re able to organize the trip to Tennessee, participating at Globals is a great way to meet people from all around the world and act as role models for many of the younger teams.
Next, you need to reach out to your Regional and Affiliate Directors. They are valuable resources and fantastic cheerleaders in your efforts to bring University Level DI teams to life. In the process of bringing DI to my NY university, Sue Brailey, our incredible Affiliate Director (and extremely deserving winner of a 2016 Spirit of DI Award!) helped us in countless ways by walking us through the process of starting a team through DI and obtaining Challenge materials, providing letters of support when we applied for sponsorships, and answering any and all questions relating to team and club management – and always with a smile. To find your Regional and Affiliate Directors, look up your Affiliate’s website or search for their contact information here on the Destination Imagination website. Reach out with questions, to let them know you want to start a team, or just to say hello!
Most importantly, be sure to tackle this challenge of starting a University Level team together. It can be difficult, especially if you are not forming an alumni team, to both manage a new team with people you’ve just met and solve the DI Challenge at once. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from your teammates and others. Yes, you can even talk to your professors! It’s possible they have DI or similar experience and would love to help you out.
Whether or not you continue with DI as a participant, I encourage you to volunteer as an Appraiser, manage a younger team, or stay involved in some capacity. Volunteering is arguably as much of an educational experience as being a member on a competing team. You will also get the chance to meet many spectacular people, some of whom may change your life. Either way, continuing your DI experience into college, a time when you’re growing and changing so much as a person, will give you a newfound understanding and appreciation of the program. Though it may not seem like it now, if you are passionate about DI, you will find the time, resources, and other big dreamers like you to join this journey. Good luck!
Author: Noam Eshed was a DI team member in New Hampshire for 11 years. She is currently a junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, studying electrical engineering and computer & systems engineering. Eshed is the founder and president of the DI club at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. As a sophomore, she competed with one of her University Level teams at Global Finals 2016, winning first place in the Fine Arts Challenge. Eshed has volunteered as an Appraiser in Instant Challenge and Rising Stars! at multiple tournaments in New Hampshire and New York and worked for two summers as a counselor at DI New Hampshire’s Camp Gottalikachallenge.