SGA revamps student relations plan
The Student Government Association, which has served as a liaison between the students and administration at Southeast Missouri State University for more than 65 years, enters the spring 2012 semester with a new public relations campaign.
Katie Herring, former SGA president and current chief of staff, is the main force fueling this new campaign.
"We are a part of a lot of different projects and initiatives that many students are relatively unaware of," Herring said by email in an interview in December. "So, the goal of this campaign is really to help start to build a relationship with the student body so they are familiar with our mission and also familiar with the different ways we can help them if they have an issue that needs to be addressed. It will involve a variety of interpersonal meetings with different sub-groups and organizations at Southeast, as well as a more traditional campaign with flyers, radio spots, TV shorts, etc."
Michele Irby, director of Campus Life and Event Services and adviser for SGA, recognized a similar goal as she sat in on SGA meetings during the 2011 fall semester.
"I think the top level of the university does a good job of coming to student government, but then trying to get the student feedback then back to the administration is sort of a challenge," Irby said in an interview in December. "So I think that is one of their big initiatives for the spring semester; to attempt to do a better job of letting people know what we do, what we can do for them. Whether that be the students or the administration."
SGA has helped Southeast administration collect student feedback on large projects in the past, such as course redesign, the DegreeWorks degree requirement audit, the process of academic advising and the "Southeast in the Year 2020" initiative, which focused on the university and education in the future.
However, while focusing on these topics, the members of SGA overlooked more immediate student issues.
"What we came to realize is that probably sometimes we're focusing on big picture stuff and sometimes students' needs from us are the things that they see every day, more tangible," Irby said.
They found that these needs can be issues as simple as the hours at Kent Library or the number of printed pages students are allotted each semester before they have to start purchasing them.
In order to address these concerns, SGA came up with several new ways to reach out to the student body to gather feedback as well as to work with it more intimately.
According to Patrick Vining, the president of SGA who was interviewed in December, these projects include the public relations campaign, increasing faculty involvement, a new SGA website, meetings for organization presidents around campus, meetings to teach leadership for student organizations, town-hall style SGA gatherings, Whineries and the implementation of a student innovation fund.
The town-hall style meetings will allow the SGA senators who represent the different schools and colleges on campus to meet more intimately with constituents in their field. The hope is that the senators foster trust and communication that help them better serve on SGA.
The Whineries will consist of members of the executive board roaming the University Center handing out comment cards while the rest of the board sits nearby to review the cards and mingle with the student body. The board held a few Whineries at the end of last semester and hope to hold one
this semester on the first Wednesday of every month.
"They, as a group, feel like that is a more effective way to gather feedback from students than structured meetings and those types of things," Irby said about the Whineries. "Not that they probably won't continue to do both, but they found it valuable."
The student innovation fund will also help SGA open a channel of communication with students about what they want to see done on campus.
"They are working on a project this spring because we do actually have extra money coming into our budget," Irby said. "A project where they are going to put out a call for just a good idea; something that somebody thinks needs to happen on campus. And then we'll fund it. We'll do our best to work with the university to make it happen."
Similar projects have been implemented in the past when SGA had money to spare. These projects include decorating the bridge to the Student Recreation Center-North with Redhawk emblems as well as helping fund the emergency light posts around campus.
There is no set dollar amount to fund this project. According to Irby, after the budget was set in August 2011 there was enough to put at least $50,000 toward the fund.
As for SGA's goal at the beginning of the school year -- bettering communication, relationships and transparency -- they have not been pushed back by the new initiatives.
"We've been reviewing our goals in the past few weeks and the general consensus is that we're on track," Vining said.