Student representatives hold value in committees


File photo

Suzanne Blum Malley, senior associate provost and chair of the Integrated First-Year Experience committee discussed expectations and ideas with other committee members.

By Campus Reporter

They may not always attend meetings but student representatives are actively participating in the recently formed Strategic Planning Committees, which also include administrators, department chairs, full-time and part-time faculty and staff, said Suzanne Blum Malley, senior associate provost and chair of the Integrated First-Year Experience committee.

“All of this work is to do everything we can to continually improve the student experience,” Blum Malley said. “Our perspective might not always be exactly what students on the ground are experiencing and thinking.”

The five committees include the Universal Learning Outcomes, Columbia Core, Integrated First-Year Experience, Registration and New Student Orientation and Community Engagement committees, each of which will implement one aspect of the Strategic Plan.

The committees use Basecamp, an online project management system, to communicate and share ideas with other members who are unable to attend certain meetings, Blum Malley said, adding meeting times vary by committee.

“When you are scheduling for 11 to 15 people to get together at busy times, it can be complicated,” Blum Malley said.

Blum Malley’s committee student representative, Ian Valiente, a junior business & entrepreneurship major and Student Programming Board president, has not been able to attend every meeting due to scheduling conflicts, but Blum Malley said Valiente has actively participated in discussions on Basecamp and through email.

“It is great that [students] are doing this because it is not easy to take this on when you are doing all of your other stuff,” Blum Malley said. “Sometimes there are other priorities and that is why it was so important we made sure there was a way of communicating [outside of meetings].”

Valiente said he prefers being at the committee meetings when his schedule allows for it because while the online process allows users to write more in-depth and thoughtful responses, the meetings lead to more of a flow of ideas bouncing around.

“[It is rewarding] being able to be heard by the upper administration [and] to know that it will all benefit the incoming students of Columbia,” Valiente said.

He said he never feels overpowered by administration or faculty saying they are all very accommodating and respectful.

Jerel Ballard, a junior journalism major and president of the Student Government Association, said Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden asked Ballard to recommend students for the committees based on their availability and their engagement on campus.

Luther Hughes, a senior creative writing major and Student Government Association executive vice president of Finance, said being a member of SGA and a former orientation leader last summer made him more knowledgeable about certain topics during the Registration and New Student Orientation committee meetings.

Hughes said he has attended every meeting so far and said he feels welcomed and valued by other members of the committee, adding they break down certain policies and procedures so he can better grasp the concepts and participate effectively.

“[The meetings] are really about working around a students’ input and students’ voice,” Hughes said. “They are trying to do that, so there is going to be some great things to expect from these committees.”

Currently, SGA is still searching for a student representative position for the Community Engagement committee, Ballard said. The newly formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee is accepting self-nominations for a student representative.

“For me, doing this committee is part of my job,” Blum Malley said. “For students, they are just doing a really great service for the student community by participating.”