Student leaders and officials expand outreach efforts

Updated: Sept. 28, 2015 at 5:28 p.m.

It will now be easier for student leaders to get their questions answered.

Staff in the Center for Student Engagement and members of the Student Association are prioritizing open lines of communication this year, which students say will help new leaders more effectively solve problems. Those changes include a new desk near student group offices, where students can meet with a CSE staffer, more detailed SA newsletters and a system that holds senators more accountable for communicating with student organizations.

In an interview last month, Student Association President Andie Dowd said one of her goals this year, along with Executive Vice President Casey Syron, is to encourage more students to be comfortable approaching members of the SA.

“Something we’re really focusing on this is year is just making sure the SA is really accessible,” she said. “Casey and I like to say, ‘We’re not, I don’t think, scary people. I think we’re funny.’”

Some senators said that as students transition into new leadership roles at the beginning of the year, they often have questions about everything from reserving space in the Marvin Center to effectively raising funds.

A desk on the fifth floor of the Marvin Center, manned by staff in the CSE, will help students answer questions about running their groups. The desk is a more interactive change from the previous system, in which meetings had to be set up groups’ advisers.

More than 40 student organizations have taken advantage of the new resource desk, Anne Graham, assistant director of student involvement and Greek life, said.

Graham said staffers at the desk are “equipped to answer questions, provide guidance and offer assistance to student organizations.” Graham also has tweeted about her time spent staffing the desk, asking student organizations to “stop by” to ask questions. Staff have drop-in hours at the desk on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“Over the next several weeks, the Center for Student Engagement will continue to evaluate the hours and usage of the desk and make adjustments as appropriate to best meet the needs of our student organizations,” Graham said.

Grace Mausser, president of the International Affairs Society, said that she’s noticed the steps the CSE has taken to increase accessibility this year.

“I have used the resource desk a few times,” she said in an email. “I appreciate how it allows students to access CSE quickly, without feeling like we are intruding. CSE can be really difficult for many student organizations to navigate, and I really think they have taken steps to become more transparent.

The effort to increase in-person resources for student organizations is part of a move to engage more student leaders face-to-face. This month, the CSE included peer-led student organization training for the first time with sessions on topics like obtaining travel funding from the CSE.

And last week, the SA sent out a newly designed newsletter to every student at the University. The weekly newsletter is different from past SA updates, which were formatted like a letter.

The updated newsletter includes reminders about events on campus, a list of the finance committee representatives designated for student groups and an “advocate of the week” section to highlight an SA member.

Sen. Nancy Mannebach, U-At-Large, said this year undergraduate financial committee members divided student organizations into categories, like advocacy or athletics, to streamline communication and give organizations a direct point of contact for complicated issues like budget allocations.

“We have been taking a lot of strides in communication this year,” Mannebach said in an interview last month. “It’s a process that has a lot of layers, and we’re trying to break down those layers for everyone.”

And Evan Bursey, a junior and vice president of the SA student life committee, said as student organizations transition to new leadership throughout September, it’s important to remind them that the CSE and the SA are there to help make the changes a little smoother.

“It’s good they’re doing this at the beginning of the year, that all organizations know [the CSE] is a resource, not just a bunch of faculty members who are just there,” he said.

Bursey said dividing student organizations into sections has made determining which finance committee member student organizations should reach out to clearer. Bursey is the SA point of contact for performing arts and athletic groups.

He added that, this year, he’s noticed an increase in communication from both sides.

“More organizations are reaching out [to us],” he said. “We love whenever student leaders come forward during public comment to create that dialogue.”

Laura Whaling contributed reporting.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the desk is on the fourth floor. It is on the fifth floor. We regret this error.

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