Student Organization Restructure

Upon the completion of the Call Toward Tomorrow work groups, there was an urge to create a student component that would improve the day-to-day functions of UST’s student organizations. Thus, the Fearless Change Student Organization Committee was created and met bimonthly to address funding, structure, elections, and reduce redundancies.

Committee Members

  • Greg Pirolli, SGA President
  • Rosa Sotelo, SGA Vice President
  • Angela Nguyen, SAB President
  • Elena Dang, SAB Vice President
  • Nadin Fallah, COC Chair
  • Angela Moreno, COC Vice Chair
  • Antonio Mata, SCA President
  • Vanessa Phung, SCA Vice President
  • John Idoko, GSA President
  • Yemi Odufuye, GSA Executive
  • Joseph Nemec, SHA President
  • Audrey Novak, Chief Justice
  • Scott Latham, Assistant Director of Recreational Sports
  • Todd Smith, Athletic Director
  • Shundeez Faridifar, Assistant Director of Student Activities
  • Lindsey McPherson, Dean of Students
  • Amanda Villanueva, Assistant Dean of Students

The students benchmarked other universities and their structures, taking into account whether they are large or small, public or private, Catholic or other. They noted which models would not work with our population, which models and structures would enhance the experience the students who are currently here as well as accommodating for the 5,000 students who will be here in five years.

Structure

The bottomline is that our current structure can’t sustain student growth and has created duplicate efforts which leads to an inefficient use of student funds. We streamlined where student groups report, removed unnecessary hoops for students to jump through to receive funding and access resources, and shifted activities to the appropriate groups instead of random ones picking up the slack.

We created new organizations to meet the needs of our changing demographics. Currently, UST does not have a student group dedicated to meeting the needs of underrepresented populations: transfer students, first generation students, and non-traditional students. UST currently has a Graduate Student Association that was setup to mirror the undergraduate SOCs, but we found it was costly (it also had the same stipends), and created friction between two student groups that should be working in tandem. Lastly, our diverse student populations lack representation at the table. Any programming that was done was picked up by random offices and, to be frank, was an afterthought and lacked intentionality. This new structure would give diverse populations the ability to request access to student activity money off the top by elevating them to the level of an SOC.

Student Body President

Currently, UST does not have a true student body president. Universities across the nation utilize the President to represent them both internally to student constituents as well as externally to alumni, donors, and prospective students. Currently, UST taps the SGA President to serve both as the head of the student government and has this person attend committee meetings and University functions. In this new model, we will reduce the job obligations of the Student Body President by removing SGA from his or her plate so that this person can focus on knowing the Executive Council well. (The Executive Council consists of Vice Presidents of Senate, Treasury, Traditions, Campus Initiatives, and Diversity.)

Flowchart Student Organization Restructure

Funding

In the previous model, all SOCs requested their budgets from SGA, including SGA requesting their own budget from SGA. We found that this is not a best practice and is an exceptionally rare structure in higher education. In this new model, a board of students who are unaffiliated with the SOCs, will vote on the budgets of all of the SOCs after they present their cases. Eight students will vote on the budgets, and three advisors will sit on the board but will be non voting members. All meetings will be open to the public. This finance board will also hear student group requests to travel from campus and can approve grants to support those efforts. Currently, all student travel requires the group to first apply to COC for a maximum budget of $2,000, and then to apply to SGA for remaining funds. This new structure will reduce duplicate applications, time, and delays by consolidating to one process.

Registered Orgs and Club Sports Changes

Let’s be honest, your clubs are the essence of student life. You create them. You run them. You make them fun. Your clubs bring the campus energy, they usually change annually with the preferences of our students, and they’re exactly what this University needs to enhance the student experience. Under this new model, Registered Student Organizations and Club Sports have the opportunity to receive off-the-top funding, so there won’t be a need to wait and see if the Treasury Board approves their proposed budget without knowing what clubs will be on campus the following year. These two organizations will not be reporting through the Executive Student Organization but instead will refer to student-run boards and directly to their respective departments (Student Activities and Rec Sports).

Stipends

  • $1,000 per semester for Student Body President and each VP of the ESOs ($2,000 cap)
  • $500 per semester for each Executive officer below VP for each of the ESOs ($1,000 cap)
  • Limit of 4 Executive officers below VP, total of 5 officers for each ESO

OLD MODEL

Position Stipend Semesters Total
President $3,400 2 $6,800
Vice President $1,700 2 $3,400
Public Relations Officer $750 2 $1,500
Secretary $750 2 $1,500
Treasurer $750 2 $1,500
Custom Exec. Officer $750 2 $1,500
TOTAL $16,200
TOTAL FOR FIVE SOCs $81,000

NEW MODEL

Position Stipend Semesters Total
SBP and Vice Presidents $1,000 2 $2,000
Assistant Vice President $500 2 $1,000
Public Relations Officer $500 2 $1,000
Secretary $500 2 $1,000
Treasurer $500 2 $1,000
TOTAL $6,000
TOTAL FOR FIVE SOCs and SBP $32,000

This proposed change would save $49,000 of Student Activity Fees, benefiting many more students through entertainment, food, and professional development, instead of directly paying the stipends of a few.

Next Steps

We think this is a positive step in the right direction for our students. We were asked to be fearless when thinking through the UST of tomorrow, and the students involved sacrificed their own time, their own money, to make the campus experience better for all. We are open to feedback and questions on ways we can improve this system.

Please join us for one of our open forums to discuss this proposal. We will be in Anderson 103 on Wednesday, January 16 at 4:30 and then again on Thursday, January 17 at 1:30 PM. If those times do not work for you, please email Amanda at ingersa@stthom.edu to ask your questions.

About the Author — Amanda Ingersoll Villanueva

Amanda Villanueva is Assistant Dean of Students at the University of St. Thomas. A proud alumna from the Cameron School of Business class of 2009. She served UST in the Office of Student Activities for four years starting in 2013 before moving to Assistant Dean of Students in 2017. In her current capacity, she oversees student elections, enforcement of our Code of Conduct, and serves as an advisor to various organizations on campus.

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