Running ASA: In Search of a Leadership Bible

16 08 2009

This is an article I wrote for the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) newsletter. I lazily copied and pasted it here with some slight edits. But since this article is about ASA I would like to share it with you all.

I have been Co-leading Asian Students Association (ASA) with Jen Phung since Spring 2008. When we took over ASA, my hope at the beginning was to merely maintain it. Despite my ambition, I was a freshman needing to learn how to run an organization at Haverford from scratch. Unavoidably, I made some mistakes such as advertise events too late or rush Jason McGraw, the student activities coordinator (a big no-no). ASA put on few new events, mostly small scale cultural activities. The only big event ASA did was the Pan-Asian  Cultural Show last year. It was a success. But overall, I did not get the sense that ASA was vibrant and  active enough.

Now move on to Fall semester of my sophomore year. New freshmen! I was anxious to recruit them. Membership and retention were my constant worries. Nothing really happened in the first few weeks. We introduced ourselves and I asked what kind of activities they wanted to see happen. Very often, there was silence. I worried too much about membership retention that I hesitated to ask them to take on a task if they did not volunteer. By then, I realized the way ASA was running was not very effective.

ASA’s structure was too loose; there wasn’t a strong sense of community; and most importantly, ASA lacked a clear overarching vision. I wanted ASA to be big and influential. But that was too vague to be productive. Then I thought about ASA as an affinity group. One of it’s main goals should be to create, maintain and expand support networks for it’s members and Asian students at Haverford in general.  By support network, I don’t just mean a safe space for members to talk about important issues. It includes any resources that can help them thrive at Haverford.

ASA has been diligent in asking funding from the CPGC, the OMA and the SC to go to conferences and put on different events. But I hesitate to measure ASA’s success only by how many big events we put on or how many people came to our events. For example, we brought in comedian Eliot Chang last semester. The Founder’s Great Hall was filled with over 200 people. It was certainly a success, but a fleeting one. I always felt some sense of emptiness after I put on a big event. Now I know why. It’s the problem that every student leader is facing: what would my organization become when I graduate from Haverford?

With that concern in mind, my focus became building ASA’ organizational structure. I know only a solid structure can carry out ASA’s vision and ASA future leaders’ vision. I’ll list some of the structural changes we made.

1.Most of the active members have a position (Coordinator of Current Affairs, Coordinator of Community service, Public Relations, ASA Lounge Monitors, Coordinator of Special Events, Media Director…etc). Those positions are being constantly refined and substantiated.

2.We have an agenda for every meeting, usually one page long.

3.A central communication method. We used as our official email. We also use Google Doc and Google Calendar extensively. The calendar is for notification of events and meetings. Google Doc is very convenient for internal plannings and it also serves as an archive for all our institutional documents (Agendas, posters, sign-up sheets…etc). All of our active members have the password so they can easily add and modify events and documents.

4.We created a wordpress blog to publicize what we do. The blog is gradually being built up. By the end of this summer we’ll have a substantial amount of posts and media. Again, all our active members have the password.

5.End-of-year leadership planning marathon. All members and interested people are invited to this planning marathon. We’ll sit down and plan things out for the next semester and the entire year. We don’t leave until we’re done. I figure the planning marathon would last 5 hours, or longer.

Structure helps to build a sense of community. Gmail and WordPress allow information to be shared faster. But more importantly, ASA becomes a collective project instead of co-heads’ burden.


Camping in Kohler-Andrae State Park

2 08 2009

Hi All,

Just came home from camping in Wisconsin this past week. I live in a suburb of Chicago and am really tight with my extended family in the Milwaukee area. Kohler-Andrae is about an hour north of Milwaukee and on Lake Michigan, so the drive up directly would have been about 3.5 hours from where I live.

One of my uncle’s has cerebral palsy; he’s wheelchair bound, deaf, and has very limited control of his upper body movement. However, that has never stopped us from getting him involved in family activities.

Approximately… 7 or 8 years ago, my family in Wisconsin started a tradition of going to one of the 7 state parks (we’ve double/triple visited a few of the really good ones) in Wisconsin that have wheelchair accessible cabins with my uncle. The cabin has one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen, family/living room, and a sealed in porch. When the kids (my generation) were younger, we used to all sleep like sardines on cots in the cabin; now that we’re older, we crash in my cousin’s pop-up camper on a nearby campsite while the adults take the cabin itself.

These cabins are booked solid for the entire summer. Sign-ups begin January 1 and each family is limited to 4 days in the cabin so that as many people as possible can use it.

This trip, we took it pretty easy… went to the beach one day, went on a really long walk exploring the park another day, and sort of posey-moseyed the rest of the time around the cabin. Of course we would build a campfire every night, but we only had smores on the last night. We are getting older after all, and actually need to make sure we eat fewer than 10,000 calories worth of chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows a night. 😉

This is the Kohler-Andrae cabin. And yes this is the same Kohler that makes toilets and other bathroom things. And yes the bathroom in this cabin was exceptionally kick-ass.

I have really fond memories of going camping with my family at these cabins. I think it would be awesome if every state made the same effort to make their state parks so accessible.

By the way, if anyone every does venture into the Wisconsin state park system for camping… make sure you go up to Door County– it is absolutely beautiful. [SIDE NOTE: so if you think of Wisconsin as the back of a left-hand mitten, Door County would be the tip of your thumb.]

Good times. Hope summer has been treating everyone right. I’m going back to work Monday… yuck, but soon we’ll all be back at school anyway. Live it up during your last few weeks of freedom and I’ll see you all soon.

Take care,
Kristin Tan