Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We're thankful!

ASGA is thankful to all of our 995 member institutions and the 2,000 students and advisors who attend our conferences each year.

We are thankful for your participation and willingness to let us serve and support you. It is truly an honor and privilege to have earned your trust.

I can assure you that ASGA will do everything possible to continue improving and growing so that we can better serve you in 2011.

May this year be one of success and happiness for each and every one of you!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Research City

Of ASGA's nearly 1,000 member schools nationwide, a great many send representatives to one of our 10 training conferences.

But not nearly as many members take advantage of one of ASGA's biggest member benefits: free research!

ASGA will conduct research on any topic for our members at no charge. We're in the midst of projects for 10 different institutions on subjects ranging from SG mottos to book lending libraries to student activity fees.

All our members have to do is write us with a list of up to 10 questions they want answered, a list of the schools they want us to contact, and some contact information. Then we'll get to work.

The best part is when we're done, we include all of the research in our SG Database so any member can benefit!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thankful for ASGA's growth

Wow. The last few weeks have been a wonderfully rewarding time for ASGA's team. First, we just published our largest-ever conference in DC, with 628 registrants from 110 in 35 states. Second, our upcoming Chicago conference is approaching its highest turnout ever. And third, ASGA's total membership is nearing 1,000 schools (now at 986).

In just six years, ASGA has become by far the largest-ever professional association for student governments. Attendance at all 10 of our conferences is higher than ever before. We're doing more private consulting and research for our members than ever.

It's really exciting to see that student leaders and administrators are taking advantage of ASGA's wealth of resources and services. All of our thousands and thousands of hours of work are paying off in our service to our members, cutting-edge research, and practicial training and knowledge we share at our conferences.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eight days until ASGA's 50th conference!

Just eight days remain until ASGA produces our National Student Government Summit in Washington, D.C. We've already surpassed last year's total attendance and are now over 600.

We fully expect 650 students and advisors to be there next Thursday.

This is a special conference, not just because it will be our largest attendance ever (and maybe the largest student government conference in American history-- not sure on that, though).
It will be very special because it will be ASGA's 50th Student Government training conference since we started the conference series in 2005.

ASGA now produces 10 conferences a year that are attended by thousands of students and advisors.

Our objective and mission remains helping student governments grow and improve. And our 10 training conferences are one of the key ways we teach and train our student government officers, members, and advisors across the nation.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Growing and Growing

August 1 marks the start of our fall schedule, as we start getting ready in earnest for our National Student Government Summit and the other fall ASGA conferences.

We have more registrants already signed up than ever before. Every one of our 10 conferences is growing in numbers.

We're also continuing to improve the content, bring in new speakers, and add new workshops.

ASGA's conferences are getting better and better. And attendance numbers are growing and growing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pushing One Thousand

ASGA is closing in on 1,000 member institutions. With 945 currently, we certainly will pass 1,000 by the time of the national conference in DC in October.

ASGA is already, by far, the largest-ever organization specifically serving and supporting collegiate student governments. But when we founded ASGA, we thought that we would need 1,200 member institutions to have the resources financially to conduct research at a level that would make us the unquestioned premier organization for student governments. 1,200 remains our eventual goal for members (most of the largest higher-education organizations hover about 1,200-1,500 member institutions out of the universe of nearly 5,000 colleges and universities).

ASGA continues to grow and improve literally daily. Our database gets deeper and more accurate. Our reputation is spreading. It's an exciting time for ASGA's team!

Monday, May 17, 2010

12,000 People Hours Yearly

That's what ASGA invests in updating the information we store on every student government in the nation. We now employ five full-time researchers who are totally devoted to making sure our information is the most-current possible.

It's a major undertaking to keep accurate records on all 5,000 colleges and universities. It's a never-ending challenge. But our team can update about 35 schools per day. We go to their web site, college newspapers, SG web sites, and put on our Sherlock Holmes hats to find anything we can about every student government.

We then store it in the SG Database at http://www.asgaonline.com/. Our members can search the SG Database to learn about trends, see research, get ideas and solutions to problems, and more.

I calculated that five full-time workers spend 2,080 hours annually working on the SG Database. Two others, including me, pitch in regularly as well, which is where the 12,000 "people-power" hours come from. No other organization in the world devotes both the time and people resources to gathering information about student governments. That is part of what separates ASGA from any other higher-education organization.

And the SG Database and our depth and breadth of information stored only gets better and better by the day!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Nearing the end...

Whew! It has been a whirlwind month for me and ASGA. Tomorrow is our annual Orlando New Officers Training Conference. This is an easy one for me, as I can drive from my home near Gainesville.

The last two weeks, we've had ASGA conferences in New York and in Philadelphia. That's three in a row. We've never done so many ASGA conferences so close together.

I'm admittedly pretty tired, as are our speakers. The travel is the worst part. Last week, my flight from New York was the roughest I've ever been on. There was a time, for about 10 seconds, that I thought the plane would crash. I misunderstood the flight attendant, who in a garbled voice over the public address system, said "unless you're having a real emergency, we won't be getting up." I thought she said we're having a real emergency. My stomach sank and my heart started racing! Wow. For a few seconds, I thought this was the end.

For this spring's ASGA conferences, we are at the end. Whew!

Monday, April 12, 2010

1, 2, 3 Go!

ASGA produces 10 training conferences for student governments nationwide. But we've never produced three conferences in three weeks.

Because our February New York City conference got postponed because of a blizzard, we'll now be producing Philadelphia on April 17, New York on April 24, and then Orlando on May 1. Whew!

Getting ready to do a lot of traveling in the next three weekends.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ready for anything?

Last weekend served as a wake-up call that no matter how much you plan and how hard you work, sometimes circumstances can derail your best efforts.

Last Saturday was supposed to be ASGA's New York City Student Government Training Conference. It was going to be the largest conference we've ever done outside of our national conference in DC.

My daughter and I fly to New York on Thursday night, trying to stay ahead of the blizzard blasting the Big Apple. But by Friday morning, the conditions were terrible-- blowing snow and drifts of several feet. Our taxi spun out trying to turn and its tires were constantly slipping on the icy roads.

Over the past five years, ASGA has produced nearly 60 conferences and we've never had to postpone one because of weather. I didn't want to cancel, but the host college was closed and thousands of flights were cancelled. On the Wheather Channel, the only bad travel area on the U.S. map was New York City!

I just couldn't in good conscience produce the conference knowing how dangerous travel conditions were going to be for anyone brave enough to drive. After conferring with the host college, we just made the "call" and quickly wrote all attendees Friday morning.

This was frustrating, as our team was ready to produce the conference. All of our materials had arrived and we were ready to set up. It looked like all of our speakers would be able to make it in time.

If we had produced the conference, I predict half of the attendees would have had to cancel. Their colleges and universities would have stopped them from attending.

Postponing the conference was the right decision. It was a wise decision to help protect the safety of our attendees.

It just shows me that no matter how much you do to be prepared for anything, there is something that will come up in your path that you have never encountered before. We're always learning and coping!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Times are a changin'

Times are a changin', and that definitely includes college student governments.

Much more is asked, and expected, of Student Governments than was typical 25 years ago.. Modern Student Governments are often asked to provide services and programming, such as intramurals and speakers, and to pay for other services that used to be the administration's responsibility.

In the early 80s, we mainly made statements to administrators and lobbied at the state level. We didn't provide as many student services as many SGs do now. UCLA's student government has a budget of more than $40 million, while the University of Colorado distributes more than $30 million in student activity fees.

Granted, most SG budgets pale in comparison. But they often have hundreds of thousands of dollars to control and disburse. Student Governments now provide shuttles, video rental services, discount cards, telephone wake-up services, and even escort services (not that kind!). There are hundreds of "signature programs" that ASGA tracks around the nation. Student Governments now use their programs to grab the attention of super-busy fellow students. The signature programs hopefully make SG relevant to the average student, which will lead to greater participation and voter turnout.

When I was involved in Student Government at a community college and major state university in the early 80s, we barely knew what was going on with OUR student government. We knew little to nothing about the progress, problems, and issues of even our arch rivals.

Now, through the American Student Government Association, SGs have instant access to vast resources, databases, examples of best practices, solutions to problems. Nearly 1,000 institutions have joined ASGA since its inception in 2003. Technological advances then allowed content management systems software to be affordable to small organizations, which led to the birth of ASGA.

Unfortunately, Student Governments haven't kept up with the technological changes that have made it much easier and quicker to communicate nationwide. While most have a web presence, their sites are usually horribly outdated and bereft of content to make students want to visit. Many SGs have embraced social networking, but don't Facebook, twitter, and others to their fullest extent. They don't understand basic concepts of marketing.

In the early 80s, Student Governments reached out to their peers through personal contact, advertising in the college newspaper, and fliers plastered across campus. Many current SGs have abandoned personal contact and instead now rely on Facebook alerts. Many have discontinued the time-honored "postering" tool to promote events and programs. But there is no replacement for personal contact with individual students, speaking to fellow students in classes and during club meetings, and using posters placed strategically to get students' attention.

In the past 25 years, budgets for many SGs have increased, their roles on collegewide committees has grown, and their role in helping to run the institution has improved. The catch phrase is "shared governance." It's even the law in some states, such as Florida and California, that students have representation on the boards of trustees that govern institutions.

Students getting involved in Student Government now has the potential to have real influence on the direction of their colleges and universities. They usually has significant budgets to work with. They usually have an official student voice on most collegewide committees.

But they struggle with many of the same challenges that faced SG leaders two decades ago: getting the student body to take them seriously, to vote in their elections, to run for office, to improve their image with administrators and faculty, and to get the word out about their programs, services, and issues

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spring Cleaning...

It's still cold just about everywhere, even in Florida where ASGA is based (we had 13 straight days of freezing temperatures at night this month!). But it's not too early to start thinking of "spring cleaning."

What I mean is "cleaning" up your Student Governments in a couple of ways:
1. reviewing your goals and accomplishments and focusing on what you realistically can accomplish the rest of your term of office
2. aggressively recruiting candidates for this spring's elections, making sure that you'll have contested races which will mean higher voter turnout.
3. getting ready to train the new officers and members so they can become competent as quickly as possible.

Spring cleaning should be about getting your organization in good shape for your successors. It should be about making sure you leave your SG in better condition than when you arrived.