Reviving an Inactive Student Chapter - How to Tackle the Challenges
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Posted by: Marcus Guidry
When I transferred to Southern Polytechnic earlier this January, I came in expecting to participate in a student chapter that was already established with a president and student board in place. So I sent my adviser, Dr. Andy Wang, an email and asked him when the student chapter holds it meetings. He gave me a prompt reply, but it wasn't what I was expecting to get. To my surprise, he told me that the chapter hadn't been active for about two years. Before I came, a friend of mine was previously running the chapter on campus (My friend Amanda started the chapter at SPSU back in 2004, but had already graduated a couple of years ago). There were no students at all who stepped in to keep the chapter going. Dr. Wang knew that I was the VP of the student chapter at DeKalb Tech previously, so he had asked me to organize the first meeting. He mentioned to me, I'll be glad to see the SPSU AITP student chapter to be revived. Thank you for taking the initiative to lead. Easier said than done, right?
It was January 15th, and I was just in the process of creating an information flier for my adviser to pass to all of the students in our Computing Science, Software Engineering, and IT departments. You can imagine all the thoughts running in my head -- How many students would be interested in AITP period? What about officers, activities, and events? Am I doing the right thing by taking over this inactive chapter? I guess you can say that the questions going on in my mind were endless. OK, so a couple of days had passed by, and Dr. Wang has already sent the information flier to all of the students on campus. I was surprised to get some replies back. It started with 6 or 7 IT students asking for more information about our AITP.
So far, so good. We were able to get enough students interested to hold our first two meetings on campus during the last week in January. Dr. Wang was nice enough to provide me with a conference room that already has a projector set up. So the next step is presenting information about AITP to the students in a way that will make them want to get involved. I was able to put together some nice PowerPoint slides detailing the history of AITP, some benefits of joining (including scholarship information), and the annual Regional and National Collegiate Conference (NCC) meetings. And of course I had to include some photos from my previous NCC meetings in Detroit and Memphis to showcase to the students would be attending the first meetings on campus. How will the first meetings go? Will I do a good job of presenting AITP material to our SPSU students? Speaking of butterflies and nerves, they didn't go away anytime soon. Well, then again, it died down some, but not until the end of our first meetings. So how did it go you ask?
The last week of January finally arrived, and the first two AITP meetings of the semester turned out better than I expected. We had a total of 25 students to show up (One meeting held the last Wednesday in January, the other held the last Thursday in January.) between the two meetings. So why hold two meetings covering the same material? Well, we have many students who have classes only on Mondays and Wednesdays, and some students who have classes only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So this was the best way to arrange the first meetings. I'm happy to say that all of the chapter officers and committee members were elected and the chapter was finally getting started again.
I was really glad to have a bunch of students who were interested in joining the SPSU chapter. The students that came in were very kind and motivated to get the chapter going. I already knew from previous experience that as a leader, you are only as good as the people who work with you. There is no I in team, and everyone is treated like family. Those are my two philosophies in leadership. From the start I made if very clear that important decisions will be made by everyone in the group as a whole (the majority rules of course). I never had and never will believe in only senior management running the entire show without input from everyone. It's not practical in my belief, and it doesn't fit into the way I like to run things.
I had promised the group that this would be a very fun year for them, and I am committed to keeping that promise to them. I had also promised the group that I would have a guest speaker to come in two more weeks following the first meeting to keep things interesting. So I tapped my friend Steve Brooks of Hardin Construction (he's a member of the AITP Atlanta professional chapter) on the shoulder and asked him to be our first guest speaker. Fliers were posted around our campus and emails went out to all the students.
We made some great progress getting things organized. Our VP Devin and our webmaster Jennifer were able to get up a Google Groups page going for our SPSU AITP members to post messages and to stay in touch. We were eventually able to get our school to provide us with our own website [http://aitp.spsu.edu]. Speaking of progress, this was great news for all of us! Overall, things were moving ahead nicely. It was almost time for Steve Brooks to come on campus.
February 12th has arrived, and Steve was the guest speaker. So how did it go? I'm glad you asked. I couldn't believe the number of students that appeared for our first speaker. Not 10, not 20, but 30! The turnout was better than I expected. Steve did a great job giving the students his presentation on data mining. He also told the students more about the professional side of AITP and provided some great insight on some hot jobs available in the IT industry. A very good start for our SPSU. Kudos to Steve for coming out and supporting our student chapter. I guess words will never be enough to express my gratitude toward him.
Our membership had increased also. When I volunteered to take over the chapter. We only had one member. Teresa Hickerson helped me out in a big way by having AITP HQ transfer my student membership to SPSU. Eventually other students from Southern Poly started joining one by one. We now have a total of 32 members in our chapter. During this spring semester, we were able to bring in some great guest speakers from the IT industry, including David Kardesh (formerly the VP of IT of Home Depot), Bruce Kantelis, and Kelly Vandever (President of Communications For Everyone). We designated April as "Information Security Awareness Month", and had two information security professionals to come by our campus and give presentations. The AITP Atlanta members were a big help in supporting my efforts to revitalize the chapter.
Things at our Southern Poly AITP are looking upward. We're planning more activities and fun events for summer and fall. I want to end by saying that nothing is impossible to achieve if you really put your mind to it. If I can do it, I'm sure that you can do the same.
SPSU AITP Student Chapter President