Starting From Scratch: Creating a New AITP Student Chapter
Monday, August 29, 2011
Posted by: Melinda Thrasher
By Melinda Thrasher, President of the Seattle AITP Student Chapter.
Three months of research, planning and meetings later the paperwork is going through its final stages for official affiliation approval by the national AITP headquarters for the start of our new student chapter at ITT Technical Institute's Seattle area campus. It wasn't easy but nothing worth doing right the first time ever is. So how did I come to find myself in the position of being in charge of this project? I volunteered. Our Student Chapter Coordinator Mr. Peter Turylo had been casually advertising the possible start of a new group on campus and held an informational meeting that I attended with about half a dozen other students. Since I had experience with business management and community organizations, I offered to help get things off of the ground. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I am certainly glad I did.
In the beginning I made simple flyers and sent out a few emails but the initial group of people that came to the first few meetings, although their ideas were good, just didn't have the time or motivation to commit to helping out. So I went it alone and kept working on it anyways. It turned out that all of my hard work began to pay off in a very real way and the volunteer position turned into a Federal Work Study position dedicated to the new student chapter. Early on at one of the meetings I was voted President and quickly found someone brave enough to help and created an Executive Vice-President position to lighten the load.
The beginning fell short of magical to say the least. We mistakenly had a meeting during finals week and only two other people showed up. The student numbers at meetings was sporadic and it just seemed they weren't interested in setting it all up but perhaps participating at a later time. Part of the process was finding an instructor to become our Faculty Adviser and finally Mr. Chun Yu accepted the offer. At our first meeting we discussed the goal of recruiting new members, getting the first 10 members seemed like it would take months but I was determined we could do it in weeks… and we did.
The actual technical process of creating a new student chapter wasn't outlined anywhere that I could locate. There was a list of required documents and signatures but the real work wasn't written at all. It was finding all of the right people to answer the seemingly endless questions I had. When I began we had the old AITP website to work with and not the fancy new messaging and groups that have been so helpful already. So in essence I became sort of a detective trying to figure out the information holders in various departments on campus and within the AITP as well as how to go about setting up operations so that the chapter could run smoothly without an endless sea of red tape. The secret is asking all of the questions first and then writing it all down so that you have something to refer to when an issue comes up later on. Rules and people in decision roles change often so you have to be prepared to be patient and flexible.
The paperwork isn't that bad if you have any experience with legal documents, luckily I do. The model bylaws provided by the AITP were helpful to outline our own chapter's bylaws. There were a dozen sections or so that had to be changed or added but I managed to find help from conversations with our sponsoring chapter's President with the Puget Sound AITP and a few of their members. It's true… people really do make the difference. Not only were they helpful but friendly and accommodating, it made the process a lot easier to undertake.
Marketing and advertising the new group has been a challenge in itself. Students are busy and our time is precious; I also learned that we might not even read a poster we pass by every day – talk about focused. The best method has been word of mouth, plain old talking to people who we think might be interested. I've also found myself standing up in front of class for a brief talk to my peers through the urging of my instructor, a habit I intend to continue in the upcoming fall quarter with other classes. In the beginning I was a little nervous but with practice it has become more comfortable and I look forward to doing more speaking and presenting. I have personally approached many of the staff and instructors on campus to introduce myself and explain what our new student club is all about so they can help spread the word to new students.
Our future is going to be bright, and fun too. Some of the events we are planning include a craft day fundraiser with glowing technology (how to use EL wire and LED's) just in time for Halloween and holiday decorating, a panel discussion about trends in IT hiring with a brief presentation about personal branding and dressing for success. Projects we are undertaking include creating subgroups for women in technology and advanced lab subjects as well as lectures on everything interesting related to getting into the field of technology such as cloud computing and mobile devices.
Joining a student chapter is an excellent opportunity to network with professionals, learn outside of the classroom and develop necessary soft skills and technical proficiencies that prove to future employers that you have what it takes to do the job and then some. I am here to support the students in that endeavor, not just for me but for us all. It not only feels good to help people but I know that surrounding ourselves with professionals from the industry we want to be a part of will help us all get to where we want to be in life.