Sunday, September 09, 2007

Advice on student associations

So though the program I teach in is barely a program, and my job as the ONLY person in the program is to build it up into a major, etc., there is someone - a colleague's kid, who's in my Intro class - who wants to create a student association. You know, the Undergraduate Geography Students Association kinda thing. I know this because her parent, my colleague, emailed me to ask about it.

Now, this makes me kind of tired, I have to say - I have an awful lot to do, and I don't have time to add "helping to create a student organization" to my list of duties. On the other hand, of course such an association would be great to have. I need to encourage interest and momentum around my program, and if someone else is feeling the love and the desire to do work on that, well, that's wonderful.

My problems are these:

- I was never involved in a discipline student association myself, so I have no idea what they do. I mean, I know they have movie nights and other such things - events. But what is their purpose?
- I went to an enormous, urban university where faculty never had any involvement in student organizations, so the whole concept is foreign to me. I don't know what my role would be. (In fact, for this reason, at the Uni where I was teaching two years ago I found myself quite annoyed when I was pressured by other faculty to get involved with a relevant student organization - this was entirely bizarre to me, and I thought, "Isn't the whole point of a student organization that it's for students?" I now see the assholishness of that sentiment, but anyway...)

Anyway, colleague is sending his kid my way, and I have absolutely no idea what to suggest to her about getting such a student association up and running, and about what they can do. I can envision going to a first meeting with them, helping them out with room booking, helping them brainstorm about how they see themselves, etc. Is that what one does, as a faculty advisor to a student organization?

Also, where do these kinds of student organizations get money? I know that at this institution, at least some of them do some fundraising, but are there other ways they get money, sometimes?

And help would be much, much appreciated.


dbm/gaa said...

In another life, at another university, I worked for the Student's Union as the coordinator of student groups so I know a little about this. Faculty did, indeed, do all of the things you mention, and then some depending on their desired level of involvement. Most of the groups were largely student run and faculty helped out with organization (especially of speakers, conferences and the like) or lent their names to grant applications. Most Student's Unions or whatever the equivalent is have some funds available for student groups, or already-set-up ways for them to make money (we used to have ours provide security or bartend at SU events for cash), so have the student look into this, plus other services that the SU provides for students groups (we had offices for them to share, rooms to book, training sessions, fundraising help, stuff like that). Hope that helps!

Hilaire said...

Thank you!!! That's hugely helpful. Sigh of relief!

Sfrajett said...

I agree that student fees help subsidize a lot of these groups. Also, they can raise money through walks or and 5K or 10K runs, and from bake sales. Lots of groups do bake sales. A good way to raise money and visibility can be t-shirt sales. They can design a t-shirt with a cool logo and groovy slogan, have it printed, and ssell it through paid pre-orders.

This is just some of what we do at the law school. Good luck! Oh--you can put this on your cv as service, too!

Dr. Shellie said...

Some other things student groups can do: match grad students up with undergrads for once-a-semester mentoring lunches; organize panel discussions or lectures with professors or professionals working in the field to talk about their career path; field trips to relevant places (museums? lectures? conferences?), "student spirit" things like mugs or t-shirts, outreach activities, like participating in university "community day" or setting up demos/giving talks/staging events at high schools, making a web site with resources & links for those interested in the field. You don't need to put your energy into getting them to do anything in particular-- basically, you see what they feel like doing, and encourage them, and connect them to other people you know in the field who might be good contacts (for speakers, etc.). You might also be an intermediary between the student group and the department to ask for a few hundred dollars or so a year to fund events (usually this works best if they are events the department will clearly benefit from, but doesn't have the time/energy/resources to organize).
Such groups thrive when there is a dedicated and enthusiastic student who likes organizing things-- if so, great! Let him/her! When that person graduates or moves on, the group can lose momentum, but that's probably OK, too-- anything such a group does do is kind of an added bonus to the general student environment.

Hilaire said...

Thank you, thank you, Sfragett and Shellie. Great ideas!