Last year, my friend Alexa and I started an organization for recruiting students to the Materials Science and Engineering (MSEN) department. Through this experience, I learned a lot about how to lead a student organization and common challenges faced in leadership. Here are four key suggestions for anyone looking to start a student organization.
1. Observe a Need
Alexa and I were chosen last spring to be graduate student representatives of the Materials Science and Engineering department for Department Information Saturday, an event where freshman engineers can attend seminars and panel discussions put on by the different engineering majors they are interested in, which can make or break a student’s choice of major in the Entry-to-a-Major (ETAM) process.
After DI Saturday, Alexa and I realized that we should create an ambassador organization to help recruit undergrad students to this new major and reduce the load on advisors and professors. We needed a way to clearly communicate what Materials Science is and why it is a valuable choice as an engineering major. Student presence at as many freshman engineering events as possible is crucial to presenting MSEN as a valid option for freshmen going through ETAM.
2. Clarify a Vision
As Alexa and I filed the paperwork for our new organization through StuAct Online, we took time to discuss what our goals were for MSEN Ambassadors. Our goals were threefold:
- Send student representatives to various recruiting events, educating freshmen about Materials Science.
- Recruit prospective students to both the TAMU MSEN graduate program and to TAMU Engineering in general.
- Give opportunities for leadership and service to the first class of undergrad MSEN students.
Without setting your goals beforehand, your organization will have no game plan for the long term.
3. Build a Team
An organization is nothing without its core members. Alexa and I knew that we would need skilled student leaders to help to us reach our goals; we couldn’t do all the work ourselves. We regularly met with professors and advisors in the MSEN department to scout out potential candidates. After hosting a few informational meetings, we were able to find five key students to join our cause.
4. Get Organized
Tools such as Slack can make communication and documentation more efficient for a team. Slack is like a professional GroupMe, where different channels can be created for different sub-teams in the organization.
Developing an organizational structure is key to the success of an organization. We quickly transitioned from having Alexa and I as the sole officers to giving ownership and responsibility to our eager sophomore members. With Alexa and myself as president and vice-president, respectively, we created positions for marketing director, treasurer, secretary, and workshop director.
MSEN Ambassadors is possibly the only Texas A&M student organization to be solely comprised of graduate students and sophomores, but as the MSEN department grows, so will MSEN Ambassadors. Participating in the formation of this group was one of the highlights of my graduate school experience at Texas A&M, and I am thankful for the professors, advisors, and fellow students who helped make it possible.
Starting your own organization
See a need for an organization? Looking to start your own? Learn more about the process through Student Activities.