Out with the old…and in with the new

As always, the end of the year brings a great deal of change. Change is already underway within the Washburn Student Government Association as the 2009-2010 administration has officially handed over the reins to the administration for the 2010-2011 academic school year.  But a reflection of the previous administration’s journey proves that the year was undoubtedly a success.

With a campaign strategy advocating for textbook rentals, campus safety, a Bod Alert messaging system, a user-friendly Washburn Transformational Experience and a student Success Weeks, former WSGA President Garrett Love and Vice President Caley Onek had a lot to look forward to. And as these five goals started out as campaign promises, the Washburn community quickly realized that all five goals were going to see significant progress throughout the year.

Washburn University is the first public institution in Kansas to offer a rental program, and it has proven to be a useful tool for students, faculty and Washburn’s own bookstore.

“We started working on this idea last spring,” said Love, also stating that primary focus of the program was to help students save money, and to connect with faculty to provide students with the tools they need at a reasonable cost. During this past year, four textbooks were available for rent in the bookstore. That number has increased to seven for the upcoming school year.

Another goal that saw progress this year was in the realm of campus safety. The Washburn Campus Watch program was established and formed partnerships with the Washburn University Police Department, the Topeka Police Department, representatives from the District Attorney’s office and members of the Safestreets Coalition. The goal of the program is to make Washburn University the safest campus in the country.

In addition to increasing safety on campus, WSGA sought to increase school spirit to help students have the best Washburn experience possible. One of the efforts to accomplish this was the evolution of Bod Alert, a text messaging system that alerts those who sign up of events taking place on campus. With more than 700 students signed up, communication about campus activities and events has significantly increased.

But one of the biggest changes this administration has seen this year is the changes within the Washburn Transformational Experience. Much collaboration was required with faculty and administration regarding this program and the changes that students wanted to see.

“Our job is to represent students and be the voice of the students,” Love said.

Onek agreed, saying it was necessary to gather research on “what the students wanted and how much they really knew about the program.”

When conversations erupted about making the program optional, it was clear that this decision was what the students wanted after a unanimous vote through the WSGA Senate proved that it was in favor of this change. This vote triggered conversations with faculty and administration.

This wasn’t the only topic to bring students and faculty together though, as the development of a student Success Week required a lot of communication and discussion.

“Forming relationships with faculty was so important in this process,” Onek said. “It was a big step getting everybody on board, but with their support, the program can continue to develop in the future.” Onek also said this process required a lot of backing from faculty, and has allowed the program to be approved on multiple levels. The program will go before general faculty May 12, followed by the Board of Regents for final approval.

While this concept of forming relationships on campus was vital to the success of many WSGA

programs this year, a program that was greatly effected by them was the Washburn Lecture Series.

The Series was formerly known as the WSGA Lecture Series, but the name was changed this year to Washburn Lecture Series, to bring pride and ownership to the entirety of the Washburn community. This year’s Series featured Morgan Spurlock, Mark Whitacre and Dick Vitale.

“We were the first administration to actively fundraise and seek partnerships and sponsorships,” Love said. “We didn’t have to spend as much money because we were able to get it in other ways. By doing this, we got people invested in the program and raised attendance.”

Vitale visited campus just last week, along with Kansas State University basketball coaches Frank Martin and Deb Patterson and athletic director John Currie, Kansas University basketball coaches Bill Self and Bonnie Henrickson, Washburn basketball coaches Bob Chipman and Ron McHenry and “Survivor: Guatemala” winner Danni Boatwright.  Love said that bringing all of these names together for a good cause is an incredible accomplishment for WSGA, and something they are very proud of.

These fundraising efforts minimized the amount of student Activity Fee money that WSGA used to bring these speakers to campus.

“Activity Fee money is a budget we oversee,” Love said. “It’s not ours.”

Keeping this in mind, the administration made it a priority to keep extra spending down and to stretch every dollar as far as it would go.

“We were very thoughtful in how that money was spent, and this is reflected by the budget surplus that we have this year,” Love said.

The extra money is just the topping to what Love and Onek consider to be a very successful term.

Love said that it was a goal to do things right this year.

“Anything we did, we wanted to do well. It was a great opportunity to serve and I’m very thankful,” Love said.

“I feel like this year was very successful,” said Onek who is looking forward to stepping up to the role of president for the next term.

“It’s been a great experience. I’ve seen all the executive staff grow in character and leadership,” she said. “Who knows what will happen next year. The possibilities are endless.”