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Program Develops Skills Needed for Those Working with Student Organizations

In late June, more than 90 professionals gathered at the University of Akron for the 2017 Student Organizations Institute. While participants came from a variety of functional areas, they shared common interests and responsibilities in administering programs, policies, and procedures for student groups. Having these different perspectives at the table for discussion is a benefit of the program’s association partnerships; the institute is presented annually in partnership between ACUI, the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA), and the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA).

“The Student Organizations Institute provided an amazing opportunity to connect with extremely talented professionals,” said ACUI faculty representative Kerry Spicer, associate director of student union and activities at the University of Buffalo. “In the world of student activism, risk management, and continuously changing trends, it is more important than ever that we learn from each other.”

Spicer also spoke about the importance of volunteering: “As a volunteer faculty member, I had the opportunity to give back through mentorship, coaching, and education as well as receive all of those things too!”

This year the planning committee refreshed the schedule to include additional networking opportunities, on-on-one meetings with faculty, a design lab, as well as additional opportunities to share best practices through lightbulb and unconference sessions.

As one respondent commented on the program evaluation, “The Student Organizations Institute continues to provide a positive, unique opportunity for those professionals working with student organizations to share ideas and advance skills.”

During the three days of the institute, participants were engaged in a variety of ways. General session topics included key components of current trends impacting student organizations, free speech and protest, event risk management, and student organization conduct and organization policy. Breakout sessions supported these topics, focusing on student advisor training, student development theory, innovations in technology, and sexual misconduct.

“I learned how my classification as a state employee impacts the work I do in regards to free speech and activism, how to mitigate risk with student organizations, and some innovative ways to utilize technology for student/advisor training,” one participant said.

Technology was a takeaway for another attendee as well: “I learned about different software being used by other schools for student org training; I got some ideas for how to manage all student organization officer meetings.”

Overall, 89.37% of attendees described their overall experience as “good” or “very good,” representing a 20.37% increase from the 2016 institute. Additionally, 83.68% indicated the presenters’ effectiveness was “very good” or “good,” and 81.6% indicated that this was a “very good” or “good” networking opportunity (3.13% increase from 2016).

One individual commented: “I did feel affirmed or reassured of my experiences to date. It is nice to know that the problems my campus faces are not an isolated issue but rather the nature of the beast.”

The most highly valued activities were the “Deep Dive Sessions” (general sessions) (78.75% rated as “very satisfied” or “moderately satisfied,” a 7.2% increase from 2016). Attendees also appreciated the introduction of a risk management case study, with 75% saying they were “very satisfied” and “moderately satisfied.” The most highly rated topics out of a weighted five-point scale were:

  • Student Conduct and Organization Policy – 4.28 (New in 2017)
  • Risk Management – 4.24 (5.54% increase from 2016)
  • Issues and Current Trends Impacting Student Involvement – 4.02 (New in 2017)

ACUI programs would not be successful without the partnership of our host coordinators, who work with the planning committee throughout the program’s development. Ali Doehring, assistant director of student life at the University of Akron, had the following to say about her experience as a host coordinator: “Hosting an ACUI program on our campus was a great way to gain valuable experience related to conference planning and coordination.  As someone whose day-to-day is more programming and events, this was a great professional opportunity to learn more about the conference planning side of facility management!”

More information about this program may be found at www.acui.org/soi or by emailing acui@acui.org.

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