Many of us hear from day one of our #SAgrad programs about the challenge of breaking out of our Student Affairs silos. In other words, crossing departmental lines. As a grad, then young professional, I wanted to believe these silos were a myth.
Why would this community of staff, all trained on working with and supporting students, not want to work together? What could be so difficult about building relationships and planning programs and events among various offices? After all, we all claim to work towards creating a positive student experience and building a strong campus community.
I soon learned that silos, unfortunately, are real.
I also learned, however, that many times they are not created or sustained out of malice. When we get busy, it’s very easy to stay inside our offices, minding our own task list and agendas. Reaching out to other departments, even with friends on campus, just doesn’t make it to top of the to-do list.
As the advisor to our campus programming board, I often found myself encouraging my students to be more open to accepting collaboration requests from other student organizations. In the past, we have been quick to say no. We cite a full calendar or the need for a day off before really thinking through the benefits of working with a certain organization. Many times, the collaboration would make our work load a bit lighter. It also fosters important relationships among large organizations such as Student Government Association, Resident Students Association, Black Student Union, and Recreational Sports. I caught myself stressing the importance of these relationships and events with students. But I was not doing a great job myself of walking to another department with a calendar and an idea.
Over the summer and start of the fall semester, I’m taking advantage of being a new staff member. I have begun requesting and accepting meetings with folks from various offices. This led to at least four events scheduled for the semester. These events are co-sponsored by Off-Campus Student Services, Residential Student Association, and Recreational Sports.
As I’ve brought ideas and event plans back to our students, they are excited about the options we have with pooled resources and an expanded reach.
Additionally, I have noticed a different tone in our meetings while reviewing collaboration requests brought to us by other student organizations across campus.
As other programming board folks may attest to, the perception of programming boards can be sticky sometimes. Why do they get so much money for things? How do they have a set budget, while we have to request funding from somewhere else? Why are all of the rooms in the student center reserved for all of their events? How do we get more social media attention like they do?
I am hoping that the increase in partnerships both on departmental and student organization levels will keep our campus reputation in a positive light. Hopefully, this happens while also opening more doors to sharing ideas, resources, and creating wider-reaching positive experiences for students.