Xavier University of Louisiana Vietnamese Association

Most Outstanding Organization - Nominee

What are the purpose and goal(s) of your organization, and how has it met or exceeded those goals?

XULAVA went through many ups and downs for years under different executive boards. Especially after an unsuccessful term for the previous board of 2016-2017, XULAVA was failing as an organization. This 2017-2018 term, we wanted to completely change the path that XULAVA was currently taking. As the new executive board for this term, we wanted to rebuild the foundation of XULAVA. Doing so, we had to restructure how our organization is structured and organized after many years. After many considerations, we have decided to form XULAVA into an organization that reflects Xavier University of LA and the students. Steering XULAVA to a more professional and cultural route was very difficult. VSA has a stigma that it is a social organization especially within our university. We wanted to completely rebrand our organization to best match what our vision for XULAVA entails. We view XULAVA as an opportunity for professional and leadership growth while mentoring our members to the path that will help them succeed at Xavier University. By going against the VSA norms, we were able to match the needs and wants of our members.
Member retention has been an ongoing problem within XULAVA since we are not a typical VSA with students who would join throughout their time at Xavier. XULAVA has a two year membership turn around because we have many students who will go off to pharmacy school or start preparing for medical school application season after their sophomore year. For XULAVA, it is crucial that we gather members starting freshman year and keep them as long as we can. To do so, we had to change how we market XULAVA membership by giving more incentives or reasons for members. These include implementing a point system, members’ recognition and appreciations through gifts, membership cards, and many more. XULAVA completely changed how membership is viewed. As an executive board, we also wanted to create a safe space for our members to feel comfortable and welcome. To do so, we go to personally know our members and became a mentor when they needed us to be. Whether it is XULAVA related, school, personal life, or whatever it may be, we did our best to get to know our members on a personal level so that they will feel like they can call XULAVA as their home and bring out the best university experience while attending Xavier.

Address how your organization was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing, outreach to campus community, use of resources, officer training and event planning.

To appeal to our members, we wanted to give our members something physical so that they would feel like they were a part of an “exclusive organization.” We decided to have official membership cards for our members. At first, it seemed like an unrealistic idea when we mentioned that we were planning to do membership cards. However, we were very successful with making that idea becoming a reality. The usage of the membership cards gave benefits to both the members and the executive board. For our members, it gave them a sense of importance when they reveal that they have a membership card to XULAVA. In return, it also gives them access to many benefits that XULAVA has to offer. By showing us the card, they gain access to our first workshop, priority entry to our events by skipping registration/sign-in lines, and many other opportunities to increase members points. When we told our prospective members about the benefits of becoming a member and mentioned that they would receive a membership card to gain additional benefits, many of them were very excited by that incentive. As an executive board member, it helped us a lot with attendance keeping. The membership cards are created uniquely to each member. Each card had a QR code personally made for each member. When the member gives the board member the card, the board member can use their phone to scan the QR code and it will sign the member in. All QR codes are linked to an excel sheet where all the important information are logged with a timestamp. This allows the executive board to be more efficient with signing in members and ensuring that all members are accounted for each event. These attendance were used to help us implement members point system and gauge how many members are actively attending our events. Another bonus to having these cards is that it forces each executive board member to actively learn our members’ names so this definitely helped aid in that.
In previous years, XULAVA does not actively promote many of our events. Not only that, our brand was not very appealing to our members/ potential members within our university. To change that, we decided to completely rebrand our organization. We completely upgraded our graphics by incorporating many designs that would be very appealing to our target audience. We also started posting our events more frequently to gain exposure. Doing so required our historian/web-master to continuously work on finding new creative and innovative ways to make our web and on campus presence more appealing and attractive. To expand our demographics, we also start promoting outside of XULAVA circle to attract more non members to our events by being more personally involved with Xavier to promote our events. We expanded from our usual “promoting areas” like the science building and university centers to tagging every building that Xavier owned with all of our flyers and handouts. Each board member also gets their own stack of handouts to personally distribute them to students, faculty, and administrative staff.
For our web presence, we are actively producing promotion videos to engage our audience. We even incorporated any of our graphics to be more attractive and easy to understand. We utilize all of our social media to increase exposure and expanding our demographics on instagram, facebook, and our new website. By incorporating many social media platforms, we are able to brand XULAVA and create its own identity as an organization.
To ensure that XULAVA’s presence in on campus, we started to become more involved within our campus by promoting diversity, cultural inclusion, and representation. XULAVA serves as a representative for the underrepresented student population on campus. We make the effort to attend many student body meetings and intercollegiate organization committee (IOC) meetings to promote our events to students. Doing so helped XULAVA gain more exposure on campus and welcome many nonmembers to our events. Many of our events are places for diversity and inclusion because we want to open our events as an opportunity to gain insight about how multicultural our university is and spread knowledge about each others’ cultural and traditions. We also utilized Xavier’s Student Government Association to build collaboration between XULAVA and SGA. This collaboration definitely caught administrations attention about the lack of diversity and inclusion within our university, which gave us and the university many opportunities to make improvements for future generations.
This term was the year for major reconstruction of XULAVA. We did our best to utilize any and every resources that we had available to us. We made sure to utilize SGA to fund majority of our events so that we can have the funding to acquire all the materials needed for each event. We even took the time to explore beyond SGA by finding sponsors for our organization and certain events. Many of our sponsors are businesses and individuals who generously sponsored us in support of our goals and vision for XULAVA. We are very grateful to have such amazing sponsors who have been a great support by financially helping XULAVA continue as an student-run organization. In some events, we also had food sponsors who are businesses and individuals as well. They provided many food for our events to help feed our attending guests.
To train our officers, we utilize many opportunities or resources that are available to us. Many of our officers attended Camp Delta 10 to gain insight about leadership and network with many people within our region. XULAVA has a leadership retreat called X-Day for our officers to attend as well. For this term, X-Day was planned and ran by Wendy Dang, XULAVA’s president. She intended to have X-Day as an opportunity to enhance each officer’s leadership and individual strengths and improve each officer’s leadership and individual weaknesses. This gives each officer an opportunity to get personal and unique training that matches the needs and wants of each officer. At Xavier, it is required for each officer to attend Xavier’s leadership retreat as well. This retreat serves a purpose to ensure that our officers are aware of the university’s policies and expectation of each organization.
When planning an event, each officer is expected to put in equal amount of work into event planning. As a board, we hold weekly meetings to plan for every event. We usually plan our event at least a month in advance. However, we aim to plan our event as early as possible. Most of the time, we start planning for the next event either right after the last event or two weeks leading to the last event. For certain events, we implemented a committee system to designate certain responsibilities for each committee. This helped us become more effective and efficient in event planning. This year, XULAVA’s events were successful in terms of attendance. We went above and beyond to plan each event. We are thankful to have such supporting and faithful members who attended. We are also thankful to have such supporting members from other VSAs who attended our events.

How did the organization work together to maximize strengths and overcome weaknesses?

Before we started our term, it is required for the incoming board to attend X-Day. Wendy wanted X-Day to be effective and useful for the incoming board, so she planned X-Day based on the needs of the board. Before that actual planning, she personally asked each officer what he or she wanted to focus at X-Day. Using what she learned, she planned X-day based on the needs of each board by focusing on each officers strengths. She also planned the retreat to help her identify each officers weaknesses and incorporating appropriate workshops to improve his or her weaknesses. This was a great success because it definitely prepared the board for the upcoming year.
Throughout the term, each officers’ strengths were utilized to ensure that our board were effective and efficient. Each officer was able to nurture his or her strengths and improve in areas that were needed help with. The whole experience as an officer was to actually learn and grow during this term. The ultimate goal of Wendy’s was to make sure that each officer actually gained a new skill and grow as leaders and individuals. Her vision to ensure that the officers had an impactful experience during this term was important. Therefore, it was crucial for her to guide, mentor, and inspire her officers to become great leaders. Doing so, it definitely enhanced our communication and improved our collaboration with each other. We were working more efficiently and effectively to ensure that we were able to bring out the best of XULAVA together while doing the best that we can to do as individuals.

Provide specific examples of how the student group demonstrated growth and development in the 2017-2018 academic year. 

While XULAVA did host many more social and cultural events, this year we took note in helping our members academically as well. We organized a resume building workshop where we invited an alum who graduated in pharmacy to speak to our members. Many of our members who attended this workshop were either Bio Pre-Med Majors or Chemistry Pre-Pharmacy Majors so this workshop was a great way for our members to network and gain some insight on what to expect on their path to graduation.
Based on our responses above, it is clear that XULAVA made significant improvements compared to previous years. Whether it is implementing a new system, reorganizing XULAVA’s structure, rebuilding the foundation, planning our first workshop, creating a new innovative and engaging graphics, rebranding XULAVA, and so much more. There are too many examples that demonstrates XULAVA’s growth for us to list them here. Overall, our growth can be seen by our work ethics and dedication to drastically change and form XULAVA to how we envision it would be and should be for further generations. The product of our work is enough to prove that we did everything that we can to bring out the best for XULAVA. This is only the beginning of a new era for XULAVA.