Let’s talk STAR Status scholars! From the DIAMOND chapter at Eau-Claire….

eau claire

One of the top reasons that we achieved the Diamond STAR Status was that we had an “anything is possible” attitude. If someone had an idea, we would all work together to make that idea happen no matter how crazy it seemed! For example, someone brought up the idea of hosting “Thank a Professor Week” on campus. During this week, students could stop by our table in the student center and write a thank you note to a professor on campus. We then delivered these cards to recognize staff for the work they do for our students. This was a brand new event, and we didn’t know how it would go. However, we took a shot and we received incredibly positive feedback!

We also received the Diamond STAR Status Award because we had a significant impact both on the campus and in the community. Our members participated in food drives, school supply drives, and leadership conferences on campus. We also volunteered at local homeless shelters, served meals at The Community Table, helped with Special Olympics tournaments, and much more. We found opportunities for our members to become engaged at UW-Eau Claire but also in the Eau Claire community.

Finally, we received the Diamond STAR Status Award because of our dedication to raising money for scholarships. We participated in many different fundraising initiatives and put all of the money we raised right back into member scholarships. We were able to offer eight scholarships and two officer scholarships last year.

We explained the STAR Status system to our members and told them what our goal was (which, honestly, started off as achieving Gold STAR Status at the beginning of the year!) We also encouraged participation in all of our events by offering points and incentives for participation, and emphasizing that chapter scholarship decisions are based mainly off of participation. We also buy our members NSCS honor cords when they are ready to graduate if they were an active member throughout their undergraduate career. This helped to maintain a large group of active members.

I think the fact that we achieved SO much as a chapter in only two years was what really put our chapter over the edge. Our chapter grew from approximately 100 members to over 500 in one year, we went from achieving Silver STAR Status the previous year to receiving Diamond STAR Status, we were recognized as the New Student Organization of the Year at our school, we planned at least one social event and one community service event each month, we held two general meetings each month to accommodate member schedules, we raised nearly $1000 in scholarships for our members, and much more! We were very dedicated to creating new opportunities for our members and eliciting member feedback to find ways to improve, and we were excited to try out new and innovative ideas.

This year, we still have that “can-do” attitude. We have already started a campus-wide book drive to benefit Better World Books, held two social events, started a coupon book fundraiser, held four general meetings, and inducted 50 new members with plans for many other fun events. We just started a new social event each month called “Dinner with Officers.” A few officers organize and cook a meal each month and invite a small group of members into their homes. Members are able to enjoy a home cooked meal, meet the officers, and interact with fellow NSCS members. Each month, a different group of officers hosts the meal. This is a new initiative, and we have already received positive feedback!

We are also going to be more deliberate in partnering with other on- and off-campus organizations and departments. We had our members tell us which other organizations they are involved in. We will be contacting our members to see if they would be willing and interested in planning a collaborative event with these organizations. We are also encouraging our members to take on more leadership responsibility within the organization so they feel as if the organization benefits them. We have asked members to volunteer to help plan many of our events instead of asking them to simply participate. This is a great resume-booster and allows members to take more ownership of NSCS.

Here is some advice I would give to both new and old chapters:

-Establish chapter and individual officer goals at the beginning of each semester and evaluate these goals at the end of each semester. Make sure that officers do not lose sight of these goals throughout the semester.

-Encourage innovation! Make things happen. Put your crazy ideas into action.

-Elicit member (and officer) feedback. Create a survey link that remains open the entire year for your members. Encourage members to use this to recommend events or suggest changes that should occur. This makes the organization into what the members want it to be! Also, send a survey to the officer board each month to get ideas of what worked well and what didn’t.

-Recognition is important! Recognize your members for the work they have put into the organization. Recognize the officers for planning a successful event. Recognize your advisor for the support that he/she has given your chapter. Everyone likes to be recognized, so dish it out frequently and meaningfully!

-Finally, communicate, communicate, communicate! Maintain open communication between the national office, the officer board, and the members. Reach out to members using a wide variety of methods (email, Facebook, Twitter) so that everyone stays in the loop. Encourage members to reach out to you if they have any questions.