In my new position at MIT, I have had the chance to speak with a number of different student organizations and the students who represent them and make them go on a daily basis. It has been a privilege and more importantly, has really helped me to better understand the student and student organization culture here at MIT, something that is essential in my ability to help organizations plan, host, and execute great events.
I recently chatted with staff members who live-in and advise our Fraternity, Sorority, and Independent Living Groups (FSILG) about effective program planning that not only addresses the needs of your students but is an effective management of time and resources. This was followed up with a wonderful discussion with an organization officer who was looking to ensure his organization was on good footing in planning events this semester, as well how best to represent the organization digitally.
Starting with the conversation with our FSILGs, I was reminded of the key tenet in the Fraternity and Sorority community (one that I have never been a part of as a student, and not really as a grad student) that I learned from my time at Ohio State, that of living the ritual or living your organizational values.
Why was your organization founded?
What is it supposed to do for your campus community each year?
What role can your organization play in promoting a positive student organization community, improving not only the experience of your membership but of student organization members at large?
We often try and take time out as staff members to reassess our learning outcomes, our programming, and our resources to ensure that they meet our goals and mission as an office that supports the college community, but are we promoting this practice to our students as well? Not that we, as student affairs professionals, are the best at this or that we have a monopoly on it (do our offices truly understand our mission, role, and standing on our campuses? This is a question we must ask along with these reflections on our goals), but encouraging the practice of taking time to reflect to get back to our organizational roots is essential. From there, we can either make changes if those roots no longer make sense or apply to our work, or affirm that these values are essential to our organization and members. From there, we must build positive engagement around those guiding tenets, always remembering what we are grounded in, what we are meant for, and where we can promote the positive growth and genuine empowerment of our members and friends.
I feel like the organizations who take these moments to assess their standing and understand their environment are the ones that last, that stand the test of time and leadership/membership changes every four years. It is so easy to get distracted and to focus only on the planning for the next event or next membership recruitment opportunity, but these reevaluations and recommitments are what strengthen the base and core of an organization, or, at the very least, let you know that you could be moving in a better direction.
Would love to hear the thoughts of colleagues on this. What are your best practices for promoting this reflection in your student organization community? What else must happen in tandem with these evaluations to ensure the sustainability and flourishing of student organizations?
Additionally, if this post doesn’t make sense or is badly written, I blame it on the high amount of sugar I have ingested in response to the high levels of stress the entertainment industry has caused me on this Monday.
Update… like 10 minutes later…
I feel guilty that I just wrote a post that does not contain an image or gif… that is bad form in my personal blogging rule book (which is like a billion pages long)… so I present the gif.