Articles tagged as: students
Meet Graciel Rodriguez: Graciel Rodriguez ’13, a senior from Brownsville, Texas, is studying supply chain management in the Mays Business School. He is serving his second full year as Chair of MSC Committee for the Awareness of Mexican American Culture (CAMAC) and was also one of the lead organizers of the 25th Annual Student Conference on Latino Affairs (SCOLA).
This is your fourth year in MSC CAMAC. How did you first join CAMAC?
When I first came to A&M, the brother of one of my friends was the chair of CAMAC at the time. She invited me, and I went to a couple of meetings the first semester, but I chose not to join because I was still transitioning from high school to college, and I was not having a fun time. I wanted to focus on adjusting to college first.
Second semester I decided to come to one of the meetings, and I really liked it because it matches with my background. My ideals and goals relate to those of CAMAC. I want to help with education and culture and community outreach. Even though I am a business major, these are things that really interest me.
This is your second year as chair of MSC CAMAC?
Technically this is my third year. This is my fifth semester as chair. I became chair when I was a sophomore, my second semester. I was the interim chair then, in my junior year, I became the official chair for the full year. So I’ve been here quite a while. I’m breaking records here in the MSC as far as keeping the same position.
What kinds of changes or improvements have you seen or have you and your team made in that time?
I think CAMAC has changed a lot. When I first came to CAMAC, I saw that it was a great organization, but we were doing programming for ourselves. As I went through the process of being the marketing director, and then chair, I began pushing for changes.
I dedicated myself to reaching out to different organizations to try to collaborate with them. I talked to Hispanic Presidents Council, Mexican Student Association, and within the MSC, WBAC, Town Hall — we’ve been collaborating with them on Salsa Dance Night — and L.T. Jordan International Institute. We have been doing a lot of co-programming, and that has helped us develop relationships. So far this year we’ve worked with ten different organizations, so I think reaching out to other organizations is something that we’ve been doing differently, and that has helped a lot.
What kinds of things do you think you’ve learned from your experience at the MSC that you believe will help you in your future?
Probably number one is being able to connect with people, and number two is being able to lead teams. Three is being able to relate to other students.
When I first started as chair, I was a sophomore, and my executive team was made up of mostly juniors and seniors. It was difficult for them to look at me and say, “Hey, there is a sophomore leading the team. What is he doing? Why is he there?” So that really taught me a lot of things about how to relate and connect to people in different ways. It doesn’t matter if you are a sophomore or a senior or a former student or a CEO of a company, you have to know people from their personalities, not necessarily their positions. It’s not only about leading them but it’s about building relationships. As chair for so long, I’ve had the opportunity to practice being a leader, and I think that is really going to help me in the future.
Also I’ve made a lot of friends just by talking to people in other organizations, and that has given me a lot of opportunities for networking and building relationships and friendships. Every year CAMAC attends the Texas A&M Hispanic Network Summit. I have had the opportunity to go to this summit for three years now and have had the opportunity to build relationships with them. Having the chance to relate to former students and other people from outside campus is really going to help me a lot.
What are some of the programs that you as a committee are particularly proud of producing or having some participation in producing?
We have four annual programs that we want to keep doing for many years because they mean something to CAMAC, and they impact the community and students here on campus.
One of them is the (just completed) Student Conference on Latino Affairs, which is twenty-five years old and is the largest Latino conference here at Texas A&M.
Which was focused on trying to give delegates tools and knowledge to help them take action and become leaders.
Yes. The theme of the conference was “Lead Out Loud,” and with this we wanted to encourage action, of taking on leadership roles and leading other people. We saw that one of the main issues in the Hispanic community is that there is not really adequate representation in leadership positions in the government and in corporate areas, as well as education leadership. So we wanted to touch on the problems that affect how Latino students develop leadership skills and examine why we’re not there yet in terms of having representation in leadership positions. We want delegates to have left the conference motivated and armed with the tools they will need to take action and assume leadership roles and positions.
What about other CAMAC programs?
Another program is Mi Casa es Su Casa, which brings students into the homes of professors and staff for a homemade meal and the chance to share information and stories. The main goal of Mi Casa is to build relationships between students and professors and staff, with the idea that that helps students succeed in school. We have that program on the third Thursday every month. The last program, in April, will be hosted by Gen. Weber, the vice president for student affairs. Everyone who has participated in the program throughout the year will gather together for a closing ceremony.
Salsa Dance Night is a one-day program that is one of our most successful programs. We bring in an instructor who teaches students four different types of dances: cumbia, salsa, merengue, and bachata. After that we have a competition so students can apply what they’ve just learned in competition and the chance to win awards. Then a live band plays so everyone can experience live salsa music. This year we had about 300-plus students in attendance.
Then the fourth program is Fiesta 505, which is coming up at the end of April. This program is dedicated to teaching students about the meaning of Cinco de Mayo and what makes this date popular in the United States. A lot of students don’t know this, but in Mexico people don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo. A lot of people also think that Cinco de Mayo is like the Mexican Fourth of July, which it isn’t. So we have an informational session at the beginning of the program, but while we’re bringing all of these people together, we also want to celebrate the end of the school year. We bring in performers like Ballet Folklorico Celestial from Texas A&M and a Folklorico team from one of the elementary schools in Bryan. Salsa Fusion and other student organizations will come and perform, and we have contests and prizes, a DJ, dancing and a lot of food too. It’s more of a celebration, like a carnival for students.
When you end your run as chair is sounds as though you’ll be leaving your organization in pretty good shape.
Yes, I believe so. I believe CAMAC has become stronger than it was, with more relationships, more connections with more professionals, former students, former CAMACers and a strong membership that we hope is going to become even stronger next year.
Meet Sam Hodges: Sam Hodges ‘13, a political science major and history minor from De Kalb, Texas, is the Chair of MSC Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA). He is in Company E-1 in the Corps of Cadets, and he plans to attend law school after graduation. He is currently in the application phase but hopes to attend Georgetown University.
Planning For A Student Conference on National Affairs
SCONA is in its 58th year, and the theme of the conference this year is “America’s Strategic Pivot to the Pacific.” SCONA is a student-led conference that brings approximately 150 students from across the country to Texas A&M for three days to discuss and learn about different national and foreign affairs topics. SCONA will be held Feb.21-23 and is preceded by an International Strategic Crisis Negotiation Exercise conducted by the U.S. Army War College. This year’s SCONA program includes three speaker presentations that will be open to the entire student body and to the general public. Admission to the speaker programs is free.
How long have you been in SCONA and what have you done as part of your involvement with this committee?
I joined SCONA in fall of 2010 as a general committee member. About halfway through the year there was an opportunity for me to fill in for our Director of External Marketing when he had to be absent. Then at the end of that year, I was selected for chair and have done that for two years now. Other things I’ve done in the MSC is serve as Director of Human Resources and served on a couple of internal task forces, but really I’ve focused on SCONA.
This year’s conference theme is “America’s Strategic Pivot to the Pacific.” Why did you select this as the conference’s topic this year?
Last year, with it being an election year, we decided to focus on all of the problems we were experiencing domestically and how that was impacting us on an international scale. This year we knew we wanted to go more global. Then President Obama, Secretary Panetta, and I think Secretary Clinton all released statements saying we’re pivoting our focus to the Pacific, we’re pivoting our security interests to Asia. We’re trying to shut down our operations in the Middle East. Asia’s the next big thing, so that’s what we wanted to talk about.
The topic is American foreign policy towards the region: economic ties, trade relations, political economy. How do we leverage our debt with Asia to be beneficial to us? Also, the military shift. U.S. Pacific Command is centered in Hawaii, and 53 percent of the globe is patrolled by that command. So it’s a huge, huge region. You’ve got North and South Korea on the peninsula, so you’ve got that possibility for conflict. Russia is included in this group; India and Pakistan; China and Indonesia. There are a host of issues in this area that can be addressed.
We’re going to focus on diplomatic efforts between the United States and those countries in the region. And our military efforts, because there are small firefights, people shooting at each other are very common on those islands, because there are territorial disputes in several different countries. So if that escalates into a full out war, what are we going to do militarily to shut that down to bring security and stability to the region? And then economic interests: trading with them, consumer goods, exports, imports.
But you’re looking at the issue with a pretty broad lens, not just foreign policy and militarily?
Yes, that’s correct. And it’s easy to be tricked into thinking that the conference is more along the lines of military because you look at our speakers and see military admirals and generals, but these guys are brilliant experts on the Asia-Pacific region. They’re all retired military, but since they’ve been retired, they do consulting work not only for the United States but also for businesses in the region. They know the region, and they know what’s going on there. For instance, Admiral Blair was the director of national intelligence, so all of the intelligence agencies of the United States reported to him.
The thing is, when you get to the rank of four-star you’re not just a military person. You’ve got to understand everything about the places you’re assigned. You’ve got to understand economies. You’ve got to understand cultures, because those are the people you’re working with. In Korea, the commanding general is a U.S. general and the deputy commander is a Republic of Korea general. Their staff is 50 percent Korean and 50 percent United States, so obviously there has to be some interchange of culture.
For more on the speakers, go to http://scona.tamu.edu/speaker_bios.html.
One of the most unique things about the SCONA conference is that delegates have an opportunity to work in teams to draft and present a policy proposal that is then critiqued by experts in the field. Can you talk about that portion of the conference?
When they register, delegates are asked to select from a list of roundtable topics that they are interested in discussing. Topics include “Building Bridges: U.S. Aid in Asia,” or “Profits Over Rights,” which will be dealing with labor laws, or “Powderkegs of Asia: Territorial Disputes.”
So delegates are assigned to one of the roundtable topics they selected. We’ll listen to our opening speaker, and then we’ll break up into the roundtables where delegates will get to meet their group facilitator, who is a policy expert on that group’s particular topic. We’ve got retired generals, admirals, professors, and business leaders serving as facilitators who will advise the groups and help them identify the root problems, what actions are being taken to address these problems, and what actions the roundtable group can recommend to further address these problems. At the end of the conference, each group will have a 2-3 page policy brief addressed to an appropriate government official. One policy is selected as the winning proposal.
The thought in conducting these roundtables is that the delegates will interact with one another but also with the speakers. After the guest speakers make their presentations, we open up the floor for questions. This gives delegates the opportunity to ask specific questions about the problem their group is trying to address. They can directly ask the speaker for feedback on some of the solutions they are considering for their proposal. Then they can take that feedback to their roundtable discussion and use it to edit their policy proposal or guide their research. Each of our guest speakers will also visit the different roundtables to give delegates opportunities to ask more questions about their topic. They will get an even better one-on-one conversation with the speakers this way. It will be a great experience for delegates.
And keep in mind that these are research-based papers. The roundtables will have access to Evans Library and their online databases. The delegates will be reading journals and publications trying to find actual solutions to actual problems. At the end of the conference our judges — we usually have a military officer and an academic person serve as judges — will receive all of the policy proposals, and they will read through them. Then each roundtable makes a 1-2 minute synopsis presentation of their policy proposal to the judges and the delegation. Everyone gets to hear about what problems the roundtables are trying to address, so it’s an educational process.
The conference has a large, impressive roster of facilitators. How are you able to recruit these people?
When I go to conferences of this type at the Naval Academy and at West Point, I’m looking to make connections with people for SCONA. So we’re always able to recruit facilitators that way. Then there are professors at the Bush School who are always willing to help us out. We’ve got many professors on campus doing great research on Asia, and when they go over there to do research they have in-depth experiences with the culture and the economy, so they can bring that experience and knowledge to their role with the conference. We have people at the Mays School of Business who can talk about human rights and corporations moving their operations to Asia. Then we can draw from retired military people and former SCONA members who have since gone on to become influential people, and they want to come back and help SCONA now because of the positive experiences they had in producing this conference. Even though we have a lot of facilitator spots to fill, it really isn’t that difficult for us because we’ve built such a strong network of people who support what we’re doing.
I really think SCONA is a great thing. Any student or faculty member who attends SCONA is going to leave the conference pleased at the experience and what they get in exchange for their time at the conference. We’re here to create a conference to educate students, both from Texas A&M and from other universities — we’ve got a student from Canada and Asia registered this year — and expand their scope of vision about what is happening in the world. We want to create global awareness and help students be more informed global citizens.
We also link students who want to go into this field to others who are interested in foreign affairs or politics or academics. I’ve heard so many stories about people who met at SCONA, worked together at SCONA, and then their careers crossed paths ten, 20, maybe even 30 years down the road. It happens a lot, so we recognize this conference as a way to build networks and link people together.
Meet Aja Holston: Aja Holston ’14, a political science major from Arlington, Texas, is the chair of MSC Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee (WBAC). She plans to attend law school after graduation, with Howard Law School being her first choice.
What does WBAC have planned for Black History Month?
Some things have already taken place such as the MLK Breakfast and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Brazos Valley Alumni chapter, worked on the MLK march and a soul food breakfast to raise money for scholarships. The Black Student Alliance Council also plans a program.
We also plan on recognizing the Harlem Renaissance. We generally end our Black History Month by recognizing Malcolm X. We start by recognizing MLK, and we end by recognizing Malcolm X. The Malcolm X program will be very similar to last year when we did the oratorical. There will be a poetry reading, except this year we’ll have students come in, and they will be the ones reading the poetry, so they can kind of feel it and remember it and put their hands on it.
We’ll also be doing the Black History Month Game Show. It’s a staple and it’s always so popular. Last year we had amazing turnout, and there was so much spirit and energy. A lot of people didn’t know they knew so much about black history or didn’t know they didn’t know so much about black history.
How did you join WBAC?
I was just kind of entering the community and finding out about different organizations, and a former chair of WBAC, Valecia Battle, grabbed me one day and said, “I think you would really love WBAC, so why don’t you come out to this program that we’re doing.” I thought that the program was really interesting, so I decided I was going to be a general committee member. I was accepted but then got a follow-up email that said, “No, we think you should be a director,” so my first year in WBAC was as Director of Educational Programming. Then shortly after that, I was told I needed to apply for the chair position, and here I am.
What did you do as Director of Educational Programming?
It was a lot of critical thinking. That position is what I like to call the heart of WBAC because that subcommittee is the group that puts on programs throughout the entire year. So basically what you’re doing is finding real life incidences or anything that affects people and can draw them to a program, and you create a program from it. The Troy Davis situation happened our first semester as directors. We saw that situation and said, “We need to make a program about this.” We created a debate about the death penalty, and that was one of our most successful programs. So that’s what we had to do. We had to figure out what’s going to interest people, and how can we interest the most people while still applying it to how it affects the black diaspora.
What surprised you most about your work in this position?
I think how much time these programs took. My first year, I spent a lot of time making sure everything was done for that program, making sure that every single video was edited perfectly. I think that blew my mind how much work went into it. And then we had a subcommittee, and delegating those tasks to that subcommittee changed my life. I learned a lot — let me learn first how much work I have to put into this program so I can now effectively tell you how much work has to go into this program. It was just the critical thinking about what has to go into this program in order for it to run successfully; I think that was the biggest shock to me.
Did you have any program planning experience prior to coming to the MSC?
No. In fact, I didn’t even have public speaking experience prior to joining WBAC. When it’s your program, you have to get up and explain your program. And as chair, I’m surprised how much speaking I have to do. The MSC and WBAC is where I’ve gotten my development as a leader and as someone who can speak in front of people and can be comfortable doing that.
You mentioned delegation. Can you speak about your experience transitioning to being someone who delegates to others?
That was a rough transition! There are a lot of things that I know it would just be easier if I did it, if I just kept my hands on it. We had a subcommittee of 10 starting out, and by the end of the fall semester it dropped to five, because we weren’t giving them anything to do. So my co-director and I talked about we needed to do. We told the subcommittee in the beginning of the spring semester, “We’re going to give you a program, we’re not even going to give you an idea. We’re going to allow you to create your idea and run with it. We’ll be here to make sure everything goes smoothly and if you have any questions, we’ll be here. But outside of that, we’re not going to have anything to do with it.”
And that was one of our most successful programs. We had very good turnout. And some of those members on that subcommittee have moved up, and they’re on my staff now as directors. I think that’s one of my favorite things: that even the little bit of delegation skills I’ve developed this year are helping our members grow and develop. By just putting on the program and having a successful program, those subcommittee members had their pride and their love for WBAC grow.
WBAC does really innovative programs that combine cultural awareness and academic material with popular culture likely to have more appeal with students. Can you talk about your programming philosophy?
What we do with each program is ask, who are we programming to right now? Are we just programming to African Americans on campus? If so, then we need to rethink this program because that’s not what our mission is. Our mission isn’t just to program to one group. And so what we have to do is switch up our program ideas and topics to broaden them to be as inclusive to as many people as possible, but to still get to our mission of educating about the African diaspora.
An example is “White Wash,” a film about black surfing culture. Who knew that such a thing exists? How do you find topics like that for programming?
A lot of times these opportunities are presented to us. So we work very closely with the Africana Studies department. The new Director of the Africana Studies department (Dr. Violet Showers Johnson) and myself have had multiple meetings, and we have gone out and looked at the campus and asked, “What do we need to bring to campus?” So the opportunity to screen “White Wash” with the director in attendance was presented to her, and she brought it to me.
We had a program at the beginning of the year called “Mooz-lum.” We showed the movie, and we discussed a lot about what does it mean to be a black Muslim in America. So we utilized the Muslim community at Texas A&M. We talked to different people within MSA (Muslim Student Association), and I wrote an article in The Battalion about Islamophobia. It was something we had wanted to do with MSA for 9/11. It ended up not being something that they could do with us, but they did give us a lot of feedback on it. The Muslim community at Texas A&M was a huge resource for us. We would not have been able to put that program on without that community.
What else do you have planned for the spring?
We have a program coming up called “The Social Life of Electronics.” That will be an interesting program talking about the slavery that is happening in Africa, particularly the Congo, just to mine these minerals and these goods that go into our smartphones. As Americans, we love these so much and we stand in line for hours and days to get the new iPhone 5, and we don’t realize the actual cost of it. So this is a program to bring awareness of that.
How has your involvement in MSC committees impacted you?
I transferred from the University of Houston. A couple of people I knew here at Texas A&M were already involved in organizations. So when I first got to campus I thought, “Well, what do I do now?” And then I thought, “I need someone to go to the football games with.” I just happened to see something on a board for an organization, MSC LEAD, so I applied and then went in for an interview with about 200 other people. I had no idea how competitive student organizations here were, so when I saw all those people I just thought, “What did I get myself into?” I was pretty shy and awkward, and I had never been involved in something this big. But applying to an organization and getting in was one of the greatest things that happened to me because I came out of my shell and got to meet some really good people.
What did you do in MSC LEAD?
I was part of the development subcommittee. We were in charge of apparel, social and financial marketing. We put on different fundraisers such as a car wash and a garage sale. The thing I liked about it was that we were in charge of our one subcommittee area, but we were involved in other things too. So we worked on Whoop! For Troops (a care package drive for troops serving overseas), and my favorite one was Aggies Reaching Out (a mentoring program to encourage 8th grade students to attend college). I did the Bryan Aggies Reaching Out in the winter and just had to do it again, so in the summer, I did the South Texas Aggies Reaching Out, and it was something that just changed my life completely.
How did it change your life?
You are paired up with an 8thgrader, and you talk with them throughout the day. I was paired up with this kid who was really quiet but really smart, and as we talked we found some common ground. As the day progresses, these kids begin to look up to you, and we would have these inside jokes. We had a secret handshake, all of us counselors and the kids we were working with, and all of the other 8thgraders were wondering what all this was about. It showed me that just talking with these kids and doing something that I thought was fun could have such a big impact on someone’s life. If you can go out of your way, even a little bit, you can make an impact on someone’s life, and that has motivated me to get more involved in everything that I do.
It was also shocking to me because for these kids college was something they never considered. My dad worked really hard his entire life, and he told me that I wasn’t going to get a job, that I needed to study instead, to do what it takes to succeed so I wouldn’t end up doing the same thing that he did. So anything but college was never an option in my life. My parents always pushed me towards that, and it was always understood that everyone around me was going to college. Then, when I talked with these kids and they said they weren’t going to college, it was a real eye-opener. So I just tried to pass along what my dad had passed along to me about going to college.
Now you’re in MSC Hospitality. What led you there?
After I left LEAD, I found I had too much time. I had always done things to give back in high school and then in LEAD, so I looked around for another group. I had a friend in MSC Hospitality, but I never knew what they did. They call themselves “The Official Host Committee of Texas A&M,” but I never really knew what that meant, so he told me about all the service and the professional aspects, and it sounded interesting.
I think one of the coolest things I’ve done in Hospitality is that I worked the President’s Box at the t.u. game. I shook hands with George Bush, Sr., and I got to see R.C. Slocum and Dat Nguyen, all of these Aggie legends. They really appreciated students helping out during the game when we could have been in the stands with all the students for the last t.u. game ever. It was a great experience.
Your current area in Hospitality is Campus and Community and you’ve got a program coming up, Half Blood Prints Book Drive. This is a new program, so how did it come about?
The blood and book drive is a way to promote service after the holidays and a way to get the university involved in service. With Hospitality, a lot of times it’s the members who are doing the service, but anyone can volunteer to give blood or donate a book. So it’s a way to let others do some service.
During the hurricane on the east coast my sister was actually there, and one of the things I saw was that they really needed blood because a lot of the blood drives there had to be cancelled. So that, a blood drive, just seemed like something we could do.
And what is the Kindergarten Book Tour?
Well, later in the year we do the Kindergarten Book Tour to promote literacy among kindergartners in Bryan. We’ll collect as many donated books as we can, then we’ll buy as many more books as we need based on the number of kindergarten students that will participate. Then one day in the spring, we go to kindergartens, and our members read to the kids. We also give all the kids a goodie bag filled with books and some school supplies and notes on literacy for the parents to know how reading to their children helps them.
We’d like to make the event as big as possible, but right now we’re trying to decide whether or not we try to cover more schools but provide fewer resources or cover fewer schools but provide more resources in the goodie bags.
Service has been a pretty important component of your MSC involvement, and even for your career goals. Any idea why?
I think it’s because of my parents. My dad taught me to give what I can, even if it’s very little, you give what you can. My parents didn’t know many people when they came here, so my mom was always helping out in our place of worship. When I was little, I remember going to lunch with my dad, and there was a homeless man on the side of the road. So we ordered our food, and then he ordered more food. I asked him why and he said, “Because he needs it.” So it was like, if we are at the point where we can live comfortably and still help someone else, then why shouldn’t we? That has always inspired me to do what I can for those who need it. I feel like it’s a moral obligation now, like it’s a duty.
I love doing service, but you have to be able to put your heart into it. If you put your heart into it, and if it’s something that you love doing, then you’re going to do it better than if it’s something you don’t like doing. And that’s really what we try to do in Hospitality.
Meet Mac Vu: Mac Vu ‘14 is a junior from Coppell, Texas, majoring in finance. Vu is community service executive with MSC ALOT and lead organizer for MSC ALOT’s Angel Tree participation.
When I was a freshman at Fish Camp, one of the things they always say is to get involved. My group leader was, as a freshman and a sophomore, involved in the Memorial Student Center’s Aggies in Leaders Of Tomorrow (MSC A LOT). After school began, I was walking across the Corps area toward Koldus, and I saw her holding up a banner. I hadn’t seen her in a while and hadn’t contacted her, so she said I could make it up to her by applying for ALOT. So I went to the All FLO (Freshman Leadership Organization) informational and the ALOT informational applied and got in.
Did you pick ALOT because of their focus on leadership?
To be honest with you, I had no idea what ALOT was. I doubt many freshmen knew what FLOs did, specifically. But over time, I learned that ALOT was based on a focus on leadership and has service as its core value. After I learned about those things, it has helped me become a better leader and person. I had no idea at the time I followed the herd that led me in this direction, and it’s been a good ride. I’ve enjoyed it.
And this is your third year being involved in Angel Tree?
At the start, I wasn’t even involved in community service. I was involved in internal relations my freshman year. My community service vision was very limited because in high school service is mandatory, for your hours or for National Honors Society or your scholarship, things like that. But when Angel Tree rolled around, one of my ALOT leaders was running it, so I signed up for a table, and I’d hang out with him, and I ended up allotting 20 hours to Angel Tree…and I didn’t even realize it because I loved it so much. It was fun to see all these gifts and see all these people come together to provide gifts for people who don’t have any.
Then as a sophomore, I was a group leader in ALOT, and I was actually involved in the business aspect of Angel Tree, getting the gifts and organizing the tables and the dates. All these things that I’ve done led me to being the community service executive and actually organizing Angel Tree this year as a junior.
Did you do anything different with Angel Tree this year?
I guess the big thing is we tried for a higher number of angels. Last year we adopted about 400 angels, and this year we wanted to get 500 angels. We had to think about how we could reach that goal. One thing we did was set up a table in the MSC, and that helped dramatically with all the traffic flow that goes through 12thMan Hall. We ended up adopting about 520 angels and collected probably more than 1,000 gifts. We had over 20 bikes, I’d say, because we had two extended bed trucks, and one of them had to make two trips to pick them all up.
According to the local Salvation Army, that represents about 25 percent of the total number of angels they cover with this program. Lt. Michelle Walker from the Salvation Army says that MSC ALOT is by far the largest contributor, and the group is essential to the Angel Tree’s success.
At the beginning of the year, we were kind of nervous because the dates we were looking at fell on very difficult days, such as finals and dead week. It’s hard to do Angel Tree when no one is on campus. But we were worried about doing it too early in November because the Salvation Army wouldn’t have their angels yet. We actually started a day later than we had planned because we didn’t have angels.
Any ideas why you had so much success this year?
Probably, honestly, because of being in the MSC where people can see it and see other people doing it so they adopt angels, too. People see so many gifts lined up, and they wonder what it is, and they get interested in it. They see the angel tags, and we tell them what they’re doing and that gets them in the holiday spirit and they want to help out.
Any idea how many hours you spent on Angel Tree?
I don’t really know how many hours I spent, but collectively we spent hundreds of hours on Angel Tree. The way we’re set up, we delegate responsibilities to our team. I relied on my staff to keep up with the tables, and the freshmen worked the tables. We spent more than 10 hours organizing all the gifts, checking names off our lists to make sure every angel had at least one gift, and getting everything down to the freight area. That’s really how we measured our success, whether or not we were able to get gifts for everyone.
What kinds of skills did you have to use or learn to use in coordinating this program?
As an executive this year, I learned a lot more diverse skills, especially in terms of delegating. One of the things they told me to do this year is to not try to do as much work. It’s a freshman leadership organization – they are the ones who should be and wanting to do the work. In terms of delegating, I learned about delegating and communicating effectively, how to market the program, how to inspire people to want to adopt or to want to work the tables. Other than that I also learned about programming, creating an event, putting the little pieces together to make the event whole, contacting Angel Tree, creating documents, accounting for all the angels, and organizing the gifts. I learned a lot because I’m working with a lot of different people, and you have to learn how to communicate with a diverse audience and to learn about their needs as well.
Delegating is one of the most difficult things to learn how to do, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s really hard because you have your own vision of how you want everything to work. Telling someone else how to do it is always very difficult, but you’re trying to get them to make their own decisions at the same time. And they did that. The freshmen got everything they needed to get done. They contacted the Salvation Army to deliver the gifts. I think they made a lot of good decisions, and I credit a lot of this work that we got done thanks to them.
So what kinds of skills did your members learn?
As a freshman and sophomore, I guess I was kind of ignorant about all of the things that went into putting on a program. So I always kept them involved in our sub-committee meetings, tell them what was going on. There is a lot of work that goes into putting on a program, so hopefully that’s one of the things they take away from this experience, that it takes a lot of work to build a program. Hopefully they learned how to communicate with peers, how to make sure the end result is met, that deadlines are met, and learn how to make sure that there are no gaps in a program. The goal is that in the spring, the freshmen will be able to run the sub-committee and the programs without my help. Then in the future, they’ll be able to step into my job.
So what does ALOT have planned for the spring?
We’re not known for doing as much of our own programming in the spring. We’ll take part in Relay for Life and Big Event, but this spring we’re going to give the freshmen a chance to develop a program and come up with ideas about what they would like to do. I’ll turn over a meeting to them with the instruction that they need to identify a program that they want to do, and then they’ll have to develop the proposal and the plan for how to do it.