A ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Opportunity

Are you an adventurous soul? Do you like to try new things just for the sake of trying them? Are you willing to step outside of your comfort zone? Or maybe, do you have a wish? The kind of wish you put on your bucket list, but maybe as an afterthought — the kind of thing you’d love to do, but you lack the resources, or the initiative, or just someone to do it with.

If you answered yes to any of the above, then Rebecca Levitan would like a word with you.

The founder of Emory University’s Once in a Lifetime Club, Levitan, a senior in the College majoring in art history, set out last year to found a new kind of student organization, one that expands its members’ horizons, even as it grounds them more firmly in the Emory community.

“Once in a Lifetime is a new club which aims to create so-called ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities for Emory students,” Levitan said in a spring 2012 interview with hercampus.com. “Each month, we sponsor a number of extraordinary events, which push Emory students out of their comfort zone to grow intellectually and experientially.”

Once in a Lifetime, as far as Levitan knows, is unique to Emory. She founded the club after noticing that her friends were involved in a host of activities on campus, but had few opportunities to reach out past the Emory bubble. But instead of merely introducing students to the world beyond the walls, Levitan also wished to also call attention to the vibrancy and diversity of life in our own community.

“I wanted to foster connections between different student groups that might not necessarily interact and assemble a collection of students who share an adventurous spirit,” explained Levitan in an interview with the Wheel. “The club provides a venue where people from all years, majors, and backgrounds can share their enthusiasm for trying new amazing things.”

Perhaps a difficult balancing act, but looking at the club’s resumé, one could hardly tell. So far, Once in a Lifetime has hosted an impressive list of events. Some have been physical, like swimming with the Beluga whales at the Georgia Aquarium, or ziplining at America’s largest course. Others are mind expanding: mural painting in Atlanta, or dinner with a Holocaust survivor. And still more are spiritual: celebrating Easter Sunday in Ebenezer Baptist Church, the congregation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or meditating privately with Buddhist monks. This year’s list of events includes spelunking in the North Georgia Mountains, skydiving, and possibly dipping into the whale tank at the aquarium.

The process for choosing the events is a long one, but it always begins the same way. Ideas are generated entirely by club members, each of whom has the opportunity to suggest possible future events. “This happens at Wonderful Wednesday, at General Body Meetings, and informally when our exec board talks to our friends and peers,” said Levitan. The only rules? Events must be feasible, positive, and located within Georgia.

“After we have compiled this much smaller list, members of the executive board identify activities that they are interested in planning and leading,” said Levitan. “Usually executive members work in pairs or small teams to figure out all the logistics for the event.”

A common theme throughout the events the club has hosted is cooperation with other student groups representing the diverse traditions present on campus. In Spring 2012, Once in a Lifetime co-sponsored the Indian Cultural Exchange’s (ICE) celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors.  Later that semester, they helped host a traditional crawfish boil along with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). Following the club’s philosophy of fostering connections between student groups, sometimes a window to the whole world is just across the quad.

All of this has made Once in a Lifetime one of the fastest growing clubs on campus, with over 160 members and counting. Still, Levitan and a number of other founding executive members will be graduating this spring, leaving behind the club they brought into being.

“We are hoping that the club can continue to grow and develop,” said Levitan of the club’s future. “Once in a Lifetime is structured to allow for hundreds of members, so we are excited to welcome new people into the club as our dedicated members graduate.”

— By Will Partin III