Two years ago, the GW College Democrats ran an admittedly disorganized student organization. Now the chapter has turned things around so much so that the group took second place in a national chapter of the year contest earlier this summer.
“We did a lot over the past year to revitalize the organization,” said junior Tanya Choudhury, president of the GW College Democrats. “Granted, it is an ongoing process, but the progress we made in the past year was pretty extraordinary – definitely a Cinderella story of the organization.”
The College Democrats hosted a wide variety of events last school year. The organization brought a lengthy list of speakers to campus including eight members of Congress and Democratic strategists James Carville and Mary Beth Cahill. Group members also campaigned for Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania and Virginia last fall.
“We started to hold events more regularly, setting a target for one event a week, a goal that we exceeded by a mile, often having three or four things in a single week,” said Michael Weil, director of communications for the group.
The student organization received its award at the College Democrats of America convention in South Carolina. Each chapter that applied for this national award made a presentation at the convention highlighting a few of the organization’s best achievements.
Convention leaders judged each group on categories including event programming, membership, connection to the Democratic Party, relationships with the progressive community both on and off campus, chapter publicity, and what the group has done to improve itself during the school year. Columbia University’s group took first place.
“GW made outstanding efforts on campus programming,” said Sam Hodge, chair of the CDA’s awards committee and current CDA paolitical director. “They were very active in engaging members on progressive issues and putting democratic issues on the forefront. Their programming was extensive and covered many different issues, which really made GW stand out.”
The College Democrats are not the only group to be recognized by their national organization in recent years. The GW College Republicans won a chapter of the year award from the College Republican National Committee in 2005. While the chapter did not win an award this year, group members say they were not surprised.
“It is actually quite unusual for a College Republican chapter to receive the award more than once within a period of a few years,” said Peter Glessing, director of public relations for the GW College Republicans. “It is customary for the College Republican National Committee to seek a different recipient every year to recognize the efforts of strong and growing chapters across the nation.”
However, the GW College Republicans were recognized for having more than 400 registered members, which brought them to “Super Club” status.
Not satisfied with just one award, the GW College Democrats have already made big plans for the coming year.
“This year we are looking to take our activism to new levels, by focusing on issues as well as candidates,” said Weil. “Next year will be even better for our chapter, and we look forward to winning first place in the chapter of the Year contest.”