It has always been a goal of the Office of Student Life to support the 175 plus student organizations on campus by providing them with as many available resources as our office can. While some of the more common resources include access to student activity fee funds and meeting/ program facilities an additional, and quite important, resource includes communication of campus policies and procedures. Our office has always seen the Student Organizations Summit as the most effective way to communicate to all of our organizations. This year we centered the Summit around three main learning outcomes: knowledgeable fiscal planning, responsible risk management in program development, and networking opportunities for specific organizations.
Knowledgeable Fiscal Planning
The South Carolina procurement system can be somewhat of a cumbersome process and for student organizations, who’s leadership can change from year to year, the process can seem downright foreign. One of the many jobs of our office is to communicate the importance of state handled funds to the student organizations and this year, especially, communicating its importance was necessary since the budget proposal process for student groups has officially moved to a two semester system. Norma Luden, Coordinator for Business Services, and JK Lawler, SGA Treasurer spoke on this topic covering the history of the budget proposal process and explaining the differences organizations should expect. In the past, sanctioned organizations would apply for yearly funds at the end of the spring semester, those funds then became their operating budget for the following academic year. Now organizations need only to apply for funds to cover their operating budgets during the upcoming semester. This change should help organizations with the challenge of trying to focus on a year’s worth of programming, and hopefully allow them to develop and implement stronger programs. What should they expect? All sanctioned organizations will need to attend a budget workshop and submit a budget proposal once a semester, not once a year. In addition to the change in the budget process, Norma and JK reviewed the important budget features of the Compass, which gives each organization an advantage in understanding the “ins and outs” of the student organizations budget process. As a result, each organization now has a highlighted copy of the Compass to utilize throughout the year.
Responsible Risk Management in Program Development
Risk management is another topic that comes up quite often when working with student organizations. While many student groups assume a program has no level of risk, to the contrary, every event and program comes with some level of risk. Randy Beaver, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, and Susan Payment, Director of Student Life spoke to students regarding knowledgeable risk management procedures established on campus and how to plan events appropriately to reduce the level of risk as much as possible. Randy and Susan explained that the role of the advisor should be to make sure student leaders are aware of campus policies and procedures on campus, but it is the role of the student leader to implement the necessary risk management procedures. These procedures can include, but are not limited to communicating effectively with appropriate offices, completing the necessary paperwork in a timely fashion, and having the correct human resources in place during their events and programs. Risk management in program develop includes a knowledgeable understanding of typical events that come with some level of risk, and what the appropriate steps are to be taken during the planning process and even after the event. It is not something that can be taught, or even learned over night, but if student programmers are active in the planning process, the resources they need are readily available.
Networking Opportunities for Specific Organizations
The diversity among the student organizations at the College of Charleston is notable, but many of our organizations share similar missions. During the Summit groups were provided an opportunity to network with each other and share information that pertains to their particular interests. Our Greek chapters were brought up to date on chapter policies and requirements, the Religious Life Council had a discussion on pertinent faith based issues, and our social organizations chose to either learn more about backwards planning or membership retention. In addition to our organizations getting to learn in common groups, The Student Government Association lead a “Speed Networking” activity during lunch that highlighted the diversity of our organizations by providing them with an opportunity to get to meet and learn about different groups on campus they might not interact with on a regular basis.
Not only was the Summit an opportunity to communicate with student organizations, it was also an opportunity for the campus to recognize the National Day of Caring. Student organizations came together during the National Day of Caring Canned Food Drive to donate a collective 871 pounds of food (enough to provide 671 meals for individuals in need). Zeta Tau Alpha brought the greatest number of cans, 197 in total. All proceeds from the canned food drive benefit the Lowcountry Food Bank
The Organization Advisors Brunch
A new addition to the Summit schedule, The Organization Advisors Brunch, was added during the fall of 2009. The program was developed in an effort to communicate to advisors so they receive the same information as their students, but in a format that better fits their busy schedules. The brunch allowed organization advisors the opportunity to meet and network with each other, as well as learn what to expect for the upcoming year, and what resources are available to them. With over 120 student organization advisors, developing a network of peers is essential as we all work towards the same goal; helping our students. To better serve organization advisors, the brunch may expand to an additional brunch in the spring, as well as some lunch time meetings that would cover a wide range of topics that may include helping organizations develop their budgets and summer time retention.
The month of September saw both student organizations and their advisors began, again, the process of providing quality programs that serve the needs of the student body, through social, educational, faith based, and civically minded efforts. As they continue to operate at the College of Charleston the most important thing they can do is share the information they learn at the Summit with the rest of their organization’s membership. While the Office of Student Life sets aside a few days during the year to educate our student leaders, their organizations are going to meet more frequently, allowing them to communicate important information to each other much easier. This frequency provides the best platform to communicate important campus information down to younger members who might be taking on greater leadership positions during the next academic year.