MOST OUTSTANDING ORGANIZATION NOMINEE: VSA-LSU

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

The purpose of VSA-LSU as an organization is to be a place of community, uniting students through community, service, and culturally-enriching events. Throughout the 2018-2019 school year, VSA-LSU has met their goals and so much more. VSA-LSU has seen a growth not only in memberships but also the overall activity of the organization. This year, we have branched into new territories and broken records for our organization, setting ourselves to a higher standard.
For example, this year VSA-LSU wanted to make a larger appearance on LSU’s campus. In order to do this we teamed up with other international student organizations on campus, such as the Asian American Ambassadors, the Korean Student Association, and the Indian Student Association, to host the first annual Street Food Night. This night was to expose LSU’s campus to more diverse cultures through food.

VSA-LSU has also remained consistently active throughout the semester with being involved with our own VSA, holding casual outings, and going to GC and other VSAs’ events. VSA fosters bonding and personal interactions with the members, not only through intramurals and events, but also by casually going out to see a movie or visits to nearby restaurants. These events are usually organized through our VSA-LSU facebook connections page.
Another goal was to maintain a consistent relationship with our alumni. In order to do this, we send out a newsletter to inform them of our annual progress and ambitions and ways they can help us. For the end of the year video, we also reached out to past alumni and asked them to send in a video that was compiled and viewed by our members and other alumni.

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

VSA-LSU has been involved in the student involvement fair where several student organizations recruit and inform potential members about their respective organizations they wish to learn more about. At the fair, VSA-LSU holds a free t-shirt raffle and hands out flyers containing all of our events with dates, times, and social media information. VSA-LSU also utilizes several social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. To maximize communication between VSA-LSU and our members, we have a formal page where we post our upcoming events and the information pertaining to them. A private connections page with all of the VSA-LSU members and students who wish to be more involved in the organization is utilized to allow free discussion between members and to remind them about our events. We post flyers and general information on our Instagram and Snapchat what happens at our events and intramural games. We also update our email list frequently and give those on the list weekly updates on what is going on around campus and our respective organization. These efforts have resulted in a massive audience at our intramural games from our members and nonmembers. We’ve also had support from other organizations on campus at our events.

This year, we pushed to have at least two community service events per month. Although this was sometimes hindered by slow communication, unavailable time slots, and weather, it did not reduce our efforts. We started out the year by volunteering with the Vietnamese Student Organization at the University of Louisiana Lafayette relabeling seasonings for a local company. During the year, we volunteered at the local food bank. VSA-LSU participated in many on-campus volunteering events, such as Dance Marathon and Geaux Big. We have also been heavily involved with other organizations on campus. For example, we performed a fan dance for the International Student Association’s International Fusion.
VSA-LSU has been efficient and environmentally sensitive with using and reusing resources. For example, we look for sponsors who are willing to help out our organization in any way that they can. We also outreach to local companies and restaurants to sponsor our events with anything they can provide. For our annual pho night, we also local pho restaurants to sponsor pho broth for the event in exchange for advertisement for their restaurant. We like to provide food for all of our general meetings. To save on costs, we ask local restaurants and companies to provide food for the meetings. This year, we also reached out to past alumni to sponsor t-shirts and costumes for this year’s Date Auction. We also reached out to a local t-shirt company and applied for a grant in order to provide CPP shirts to sell to raise money for our CPP. For the annual basketball tournament, instead of hiring UREC officials to scorekeep, E-Board members and some general members to keep track of time and score, saving the organization from an extra cost.

At the beginning of the fall semester, VSA-LSU held a V-day, which served as a two-day leadership retreat for executive board members. This was put on by the senior advisors. The purpose of V-Day is to benefit the E-Board members by teaching crucial skills for working in a group; these skills include communication, teamwork, trust, and patience. This helped the board as they did not quite know each other’s work ethic, thoughts, and backgrounds. It helped the board break down walls and grow closer and work together effectively through their term. During the Spring Semester, we decided to have interns that would work with and shadow the E-Board. The interns would be comprised of active members who wish to potentially be a part of E-Board. This opportunity would allow members to gain a better understanding of the inner workings of E-Board and the details involved with VSA event planning. The goal of implementing interns were to give those who decided to be a part of the board next year a better transition into their position. At the end of the year, when it was time to transition to the next E-Board, we hosted an E-Board transition potluck. This day was aimed to hand down documents and tips to the new board members as well as a bonding day for the new and old members to get to know each other. To assist with transitioning, VSA-LSU keeps a Google Drive with documents and files that get handed down from year to year. This allows the current board to have a guide and recommendations for events as well as steps needed to take for certain events.

When planning events, VSA-LSU created a timeline for both the fall and spring semester, accounting for major events like music festivals, holidays, midterms and finals, as well as campus and regional events. We will also plan out extra dates in case we wanted to implement new events. Based on the event, planning started two weeks to as early as seven months in advanced. Event planning included location, time, date, supplies and ingredients, expected attendance, and contingency plans – such as relocating and insufficient supplies. To further expand, we would have a list of places to relocate a meeting or event at a moment’s notice. More supplies would be on hand, in case we ran out, excluding food for budgetary reasons.

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

One of the biggest strengths of VSA-LSU would be the diversity and activeness of our organization and its members. Our organization is composed of over 100 members. These members are not only active in our own organization but are involved in campus and regional organizations. Our members work hard to maintain connections and bond with each other and make an effort to consistently support each other. For example, there is a consistent and huge amount of support and involvement in our intramural sports. Another one of our strengths is our ability to raise money for philanthropy. Every year, our organization consistently is able to raise a large amount of money for our Collective Philanthropy Project and Dance Marathon.

Since LSU has such a large campus, it is difficult for VSA-LSU to reach a wider variety of students and platforms. In order to improve upon this, this year, we reached out to other student organizations and clubs on campus to support them and collaborate on events with them.

Provide specific examples of how the student group demonstrated growth and development in the 2018-2019 academic year.

This year, VSA-LSU continued to grow during the 2018-2019 school year. Several of the above points touched based on just some of the things that VSA-LSU accomplished this year. This year, we continued to provide exceptional events for our members that maintained their quality and improved on past years. Our events continue to reach many students, not only in our organization and school, but other schools in our region as well. This year, we were also able to bring more culture into the organization by choreographing a fan dance that was put on by our members. We also continued our efforts to raise money for our CPP by surpassing the amounts that we were able to raise in the past.

VSA-LSU has also continued to grow its alumni list, reaching out and collecting contact information from recent graduates. In addition, VSA-LSU has maintained new, yet effective, ideas from last year like its unique Goal of the Event incentives. Goal of the Events keep our members active and give them the opportunity to do fun and entertaining activities that they would not normally get to do like a relay race, pieing someone in the face, or watching real life food challenges.

This year, our members had more personal interaction with each other. Outside of the formalities of events, our members hung out with each other and were able to form lifelong friendships and connections. Whether it was just a study group, eating out at a restaurant, or providing job connections, our members were impacted by these acts.