Reflection and report by Sarah Thomson, SUSDA Networking Chair 2011-2012
Reflections on the Year
- I came in to this year on the E team with lots of excitement and anticipation for the ways in which I could offer myself, my skills and expertise in representing and furthering the vision and development of SUSDA. My classmates encouraged me to offer myself to the work of Networking Chair as they thought I would bring strong community building skills and professional competencies to the work of this role. My initial anticipation for SUSDA stayed with me all year, even in the busyness that each quarter presented. My commitment to care of SUSDA members grounded all my work with SUSDA programs and the development of our collaborative vision. There was enormous care and intention shared between members of this year’s E team, as well as a high degree of competence. I believe this care and intention has been our most significant strength. We have greatly valued the process of hearing from and learning from one another and stood in unified support of each other in all of our individual and corporate work this year. We met consistently in fall and winter and these meetings were a vital and intentional mix of business and checking in with each other on our projects, as well as inquiring after each other’s wellness, sense of balance and needs. The strong care, intention and competence with which we worked together as an E team modeled a healthy and vital invitation for SUSDA itself to be a place of support, authenticity and professionalism.
- Continued areas of growth include: finding stable sources of funding (and earlier in the year), ongoing collaboration with Grad Student Council, liaising more with SDA alums, continuing to reach out to SUSDA members on the margins, and offering diverse ways/environments for students to gather. (Though I love a good night of social drinking, I wonder how often the presence of alcohol deters some students from coming to SUSDA gatherings).
- My work on the E team has been an extremely fruitful experience of collaborative and creative vision in action. I have deep gratitude for this caring, competent E team and the outstanding and beautiful community that is SUSDA. I developed new skills along the way and honed some existing ones. I built meaningful and important relationships on and off campus with students, staff, faculty and alums. I was able to be a caring voice and a listening ear in the decision making process of prospective students.
Successes, Accomplishments, and Changes
- The Prospective Student (Outreach) Committee represented the SDA program at each of the 3 Graduate Programs Open Houses. These were held in October, February and April. Members of this committee also met with prospective students one-on one at the request of faculty, as well as being involved with prospective students during Preview Days.
- I organized and facilitated the Internship Fair Prep session which was held on January 24, 2012. I liaised with the Professional Development Committee to offer a two hour session which provided general information about the internship process, provided information about the actual fair and offered tips and skills for networking and resume writing.
- The annual SDA Internship Fair was held on February 1st welcoming to campus over 37 professionals from 16 institutions. The feedback from both students and professionals was very positive with the majority of the constructive feedback being about logistics such as time and length of the event.
- I sat on the SDA 20th Anniversary Planning Committee which met from November 2011-April 2012. This committee did a lot of liaising with alums and worked hard to update our SDA alumni contact list. We also increased our commitment to clarify and communicate ways in which alums can get involved in supporting the program. This was very important work for clarifying and furthering the involvement of alums in the program.
- Changes will need to be made to the Internship Fair prep session. It will be important to clarify what HAS to be done at this session and what could be offered as an optional session at another time E.g. resume writing etc. The clear need is for a session on networking so that students have these skills fresh in hand as they go in to the fair the following week.
Hopes and Expectations of my Successor
- Continue to build on the strong foundation that has been laid with SDA alumni. They are an incredible resource and ALWAYS willing to support in any way they can. And there are lots of them!
- Make the quarterly alumni newsletter happen!
- Continue to liaise with community colleges about the SDA program and seek new internship opportunities. Increase the presence of Community Colleges at the Internship Fair.
- Sharpen up the Internship Fair prep session that happens in January. Be clear about the goals of this gathering. Giving students skills/tools for networking is what they most need in front of the Internship Fair.
- Be a community builder. Be a community builder. Be a community builder.
- Attend at least the first and preferably the second Grad Programs Open House. First year students will need you there if you have an absence of continuing students to represent the program. Stay in close contact with Jeremy about these Open Houses and give him names well in advance as nametags are printed by Admissions.
- Communicate the vision, collaborate, delegate, execute, welcome feedback, say thank you and celebrate.
Hopes and Expectations of the new E Team
- Be intentional in your care for each other
- Tell each other your stories as best you can
- Be honest and open with each other. Make sure you know each other’s signs of stress and your communication styles.
- Be community builders within SUSDA, on and off campus
- Seek to serve the greater good and the whole body of SUSDA beyond your specific role description.
- Be available and always take time for people. It doesn’t take long for people to perceive if you really care.
- Operate under the “presumption of goodwill.” This means that you trust that each person is doing the best they can at the moment, with what they have to bring.
- Do not tolerate gossip. This only rips at the fabric of community. Take a stand for courageous conversations that call people to greater mindfulness in communication.
- Model constructive feedback in your criticisms of the program. If you have complaints and frustrations then have a productive and honest conversation to move through these so that the program and SUSDA will continue to be a place of excellence and care.
- Set the bar high for open and honest dialog that creates trust and safety amongst you. This will also help you establish this norm within SUSDA.
- Establish a culture of dialog and feedback
- Go after those on the margins of SUSDA. Ask yourselves “who is not at the table?”
- Be faithful to meet even when you feel tired and overwhelmed.
- Always say thank you to Eunice!