On Sunday, Feb. 2, the Vassar Student Association (VSA) hosted a spring leadership conference for leaders and members of the College’s student organizations. While this was the VSA’s first leadership conference in the spring, a similar event is held every fall. This was also the first leadership conference that allowed representatives from preliminary organizations to attend.
VSA VP for Activities Stephanie Goldberg ‘14, organized the event and spoke to its purpose. She said, “It was to serve as a refresher of basic things like programming for whoever the programmers are in the orgs and also as a refresher for treasurer basics and finances.”
Goldberg continued to explain that the event was partially a response to issues raised during the first semester. She said, “It was also to address some of the concerns that that had come our way about orgs and from orgs. For example, they had some concerns about not being sure of the programming process, and then there were also concerns from some of the faculty about programming in spaces outside of the Villard Room, and we just needed to reiterate to the orgs that these are shared spaces and we need to be respectful about [them].”
Goldberg also commented on one of the biggest changes between past fall leadership conferences and this year’s spring leadership conference. Reflecting on the new inclusion of preliminary organizations in the conference, she said, “The fact that they’re prelims means that we hope that they’ll eventually become certified orgs, and we felt that if they were able to start attending then they’d have better leadership skills for when they actually become certified organizations. Then they have the tools already there, they know what they’re doing, and then they can send underclassmen and future leaders to the leadership conference [next time].”
The event had significantly larger attendance than expected, with 87 organizations—more than two-thirds of Vassar’s student organizations—represented by at least one, and usually two, student leaders. Goldberg estimated that the number of attendees exceeded 130, and admitted, “We actually had to order more food at the last minute because so many people came.”
The event featured presentations from several VSA student leaders. VP for Finance Mike Kaluzny ‘14 kicked off the event with a presentation focusing on finances, annual budgeting and funding for student organizations. Next, presentations regarding Student Activity Resource (SARC) and programming were led by SARC interns, leading into an overview of the VSA’s new event management request system. Finally, Goldberg, VP for Student Life Danny Dones ‘16 and Activities Committee member Carolina Gustafson ’15 presented a talk about responsibility and liability issues for organizations, especially related to the respectful use of shared campus spaces.
Reflecting on the event, Goldberg said, “I think we did reach a good number and I think we gave them some information that we didn’t in the fall…and I’m happy that we were able to give that to them now, especially to the incoming leadership that might not have been there last semester so that way they know what to do.” Goldberg said that while she is still collecting feedback on the event, students’ reactions have been overwhelmingly positive and she hopes that the event can continue occurring in the spring.
Co-president of the Caribbean Students Alliance (CSA) Tamasha Persaud ’15, spoke to her experiences at the event in an emailed statement. She said, “I spent last semester abroad. After I returned I realized that some of the procedures for programming on campus had changed. As an org officer I thought it would be important to become aware of these new procedures and the resources that are available in order to ensure that things run smoothly when planning future CSA events.” She went further, agreeing with the student consensus about the success of the event. “I thought the conference was very informative. A more appropriate name for the conference could have been ‘programming in a nutshell.’ I appreciate the fact that it was concise but was still able to communicate the important aspects of programming on campus…I encourage other org leaders to attend the conference in the future,” she said.
She continued, “Many questions come up in the midst of planning an event like: How do I reserve a space for an event? How do I reserve a date for an event?..These are some of the questions that were eloquently addressed at the conference.”
Co-captain of both the Vassar Ski Team and Ultimate Frisbee, Anna Been ’14, found more value in other information at the conference. In her emailed statement, she said, “I attended the conference both because it was mandatory and because I needed a refresher on some of the treasurer information. I preferred it to the [fall leadership conference] because it was a lot more concise and well-explained…The finance information presented by [Kaluzny] was really useful, mostly because I have to do a lot of budget related things, such as getting checks cut, booking hotels, etc. for both orgs.”
One of Vassar’s newest organizations, Britomartis Devised Theatre Ensemble, was also represented. According to Co-President Lyla Porter-Fellows ‘14, “We create original devised works of theatre through adaptation of pre-existing texts, original writing, workshopping, improvisation, movement, etc.” Of the conference, she said, “Though we have been active since 2011, we were just recently certified as an org this past fall, and so we were required to attend the spring leadership conference as a way of introducing us to some of the policies and resources of the VSA. All four members of our executive board attended the meeting.” Porter-Fellows was grateful for the information, but wished for a little more, saying, “Much of the information was directed to the org treasurers and was very useful information. Our treasurer, Hollace Francy ’15, was already pretty well versed in VSA procedure and has been very top of things but I guess it was helpful for the rest of us to hear rules laid out. I think the presentation could have been a bit more dynamic, but it was helpful to be reminded of the larger support system of the VSA and SARC as well as of the many bureaucratic processes and deadlines that our org should be mindful of throughout the year.”
Goldberg expressed gratitude to all of the participants and her supporters, saying “Thank you to all the attendees and the activities committee for helping me put it all together.” She expressed hope that the spring leadership conference could become an annual event, allowing students the resources and servieces they need to lead Vassar’s many organizations.