SUSDA in Transition: Communications Chair Report

This report and reflection is written by Brandon Lueken, SUSDA Communications Chair 2011-2012.

Changes

Reflections on the Year

            Dear Future Dweller,

            You may be examining this document for insight, for practical advice, or for historical reasons. Let me inform you then that my time in SUSDA has been transformative in several ways. Out of the 2011-2012 SUSDA E-team, three of our members had served on the previous E-team. As a result of having six months of work under my belt (where the bulk of the set-up was mostly complete), this year I had more of an opportunity to continue my work, and to work within a team from the beginning, rather than coming to the team and working on my own agenda parallel to their aims, but never truly a part of the plan.

            This is a roundabout way of saying that I was excited to work with the 2011-2012 SUSDA team. Something that made all the difference in the world in the beginning was our retreat – I took an emotional risk in telling the team why I was there, why I wanted to pursue this work, and it made all the difference. I served as the SUSDA Communications Chair (nee Info Chair) because I did not want anyone in the program to feel alone, something I had felt quite keenly during my first year. During my time on the E-team, I have felt very included, and an important member of our operations. In many ways, I am the most visible member of SUSDA, and so I must represent the idiosyncrasies of the team.

            Besides being accepting of me, our team has been strong on timing programming, facilitating discussion, and welcoming newcomers into our fold. However, I feel that we have been rotten about integrating the First-Year Liaison into our midst. I feel like our energy as a team drained as the year went on and life intervened. We met less, we felt scattered and frantic, and sometimes meeting were less about business than venting sessions. I think we have done well being intentional and accessible about programming, which in some ways has made the first year students less open to change and flexibility. They are so used to well planned activities that SUSDA seems overly formal, robbed of spontaneity.

            I think reaffirming the SUSDA E-team’s purpose will be important in moving forward, and solidifying the team’s stance on that is a key part of next year. Why do we have SUSDA, and would the program be poorer without SUSDA? I think SUSDA exists to support professional development and facilitate social events for the program, and I think our program would be less special without SUSDA. We have had a focus on community this year, and what that means, and how we cultivate that. We tried to talk more seriously about race and equity (especially in regards to our program), but I think that conversation needs to go further. With a more multicultural incoming SUSDA E-team, I am confident this issue will be more prevalent.

            I think we have also tried moving forward on transparency, especially when it comes to money and effort, which is a good thing. SUSDA’s money troubles need to be fixed lest we find ourselves unable to put on any kind of event at all.

Successes, Accomplishments, and Changes

            The Info Chair, which later became the Communications Chair, was founded in 2008, and served in part by Bryce Hughes. The position was vacant in 2009, and filled by continuing student Kassie Chapel in 2010. However, Kassie left the position in November for personal reasons, leaving the position open. There was an application process to the SUSDA E-team (then E-board). I was encouraged to apply by then SUSDA chair Deanne Liu. I thought no one else had applied, and dashed something off at the last minute. I discovered that four other people applied for the position, and I was selected by the E-team after reviewing my materials (a letter and a resume if I recall correctly). I became part of the team in December, and promptly began making a video and a blog. I have served as the first stable Communications Chair for 18 months, and now am successfully passing the torch to someone else, who is excited about the position. This marks the first successful transfer of power for this position ever, and I consider it my highest achievement.

            Second to that is building community. As the Communications Chair, I had no formal events, I developed no formal projects, my process was one of continuation: getting people to talk to one another, and making sure they were informed. I was a person who started dialogues, facilitated conversation, and ensured transparency between the E-team, and the student body. Very quickly, we realized we could not keep spamming our program with e-mails, so we consolidated them all to a weekly newsletter, written by me. I began with simple observations, followed by lists of goings on, but those observations have now spread into whole paragraphs about nothing and everything. They kept people reading the e-mails, and I am glad that I have been able to help touch people’s lives. Sometimes I feel like I talk about myself too much, but it seems as if people generally enjoy these things I write.

            The blog is there, the twitter is there, the Facebook is there, I opened up a can of worms with the Youtube account. I did a lot of social media things as part of this job, and a lot of technology. I suppose this is how we communicate now.

 Hopes and Expectations for Successors

            It is my hope that my current successor, and all successors afterward, bring as much passion, joy, and genuine desire to help connect others as I have to this position. I hope that they are able to build a committee/foster blog posts better than I have. I hope they are able to post more consistently to the SUSDA Twitter, and that they are not saddled with projects all by their lonesome, like another Preview Days video, or filming events. I happened to be a graduate assistant in the Media Production Center, and interested in technology. Others will have their own passions and specialties. I hope they use them for this position.

It is my hope that the E-Team does awesome things. I hope they welcome in the first years well, and I hope they do not over commit to the position. I hope they are able to maybe build a collective voice to better influence policy decisions among the faculty and administrators. I hope they are able to build discussions about the inequity that does exist in our program between those who find work, and those who struggle (even with a Graduate Assistantship).  I hope that when they write a continuity file, they are content.

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