When going to a new university, whether you’re a first-year or a transfer student, all you want to do is make friends and get involved. For Anna Pham, this was one of her goals when she transferred to Boston University her sophomore year. Pham is a senior in the College of Communications (COM) studying Public Relations. She is the president of the College of Communications Student Assembly (COMSA) and co-founder of a non-profit project named RyannaShirts.
Pham joined COMSA in her first year at BU as a Senator, and she was Vice President her junior year. With each position that Pham takes for COMSA her goal stays the same.
“My goal was to really hone in on where I can make a difference at BU,” Pham said. “BU is such a large university, so there is so much you can get involved in with over 300 student organizations.”
Through her work with COMSA, Pham has also found a home in the organization and COM.
“There are so many great people in COMSA and the College of Communication,” Pham said. “I just wanted to find a way to help foster that community specifically for the undergraduate population.”
With this experience, there’s so much that she has learned and skills she has picked up. They expand beyond the hard skills on a resume that have shaped her position as a leader in the organization. She has learned leadership skills through meetings and using the Slack channel to delegate tasks and answer members’ questions whenever they arise.
“It’s not just on one person to lead COMSA, it’s on everyone,” Pham said. “We’re all working to one mission.”
As a transfer student, COMSA played a large part in allowing Pham to find her place at BU, and she wants to help extend that same hand to students in the College of Communication through COMSA. She mentioned that creating new leadership positions for members was an important step toward doing so, especially in the organization’s new social media and marketing team.
In her three years with COMSA, one of her favorite events happened this semester, amidst the pandemic. COMSA held a Town Hall event where a panel of 10 faculty members in COM answered questions from students about classes, jobs, internships, and anything else COM-related. It was also an opportunity for the students and faculty to share their experiences over the course of the semester.
“I saw a vulnerable side of students and professors and faculty within the College of Communication, and it was very inspirational,” Pham said.
Pham was one of the hosts of the event, in which she asked questions to the faculty. One of which was about what they would have liked to know before graduation.
“A lot of people gave excellent advice on making friends, making the most out of your time here, and realizing that it’s not the end when you’re done with your undergraduate career,” Pham said.
As with every event and general meeting since the pandemic began, the event took place over Zoom, which was an added challenge for the organizers. However, Pham’s persistence for community building has shined through in meetings and trying to make the most out of the constant use of Zoom and the virtual world. During the general meetings, members are paired up randomly to share something from their week to help create a better community.
“I think that breaks down the wall a little bit because Zoom is so hard to connect with someone,” Pham said.
Through those challenges, Pham believes COMSA has adapted to the transition to virtual events and meetings well.
Aside from COMSA, Pham co-founded a non-profit project in May of this year called RyannaShirts. A play on words of her name and her boyfriend’s created this passion project where 100% of the profits from each t-shirt goes to a non-profit organization. The first shirt they’ve created donated almost $500 to the Jed Foundation, an organization that helps teens and young adults struggling with mental health issues. The t-shirt reads, “Kindness goes a long way.”
“Kindness is one of our core values, and we wanted to find ways to uplift people,” Pham said.
While working on this project, Pham has put many the skills that she has learned from COMSA and her COM classes into RyannaShirts. During their weekly meetings, Pham sets up an agenda and uses time management skills developed from COMSA.
“COMSA that taught me that the professional aspect of leading a team and guiding it to make sure that we’re reaching our goals and mission statement,” Pham said.
Pham has also used the graphic design skills she learned from a class with BU professor Joyce Walsh to create the design and typography on the t-shirt while her boyfriend works mostly on the project’s back end.
There is a bright and broad future for RyannaShirts as well. They could have different colors and designs for different non-profits that they donate to with their mission statement in mind.
“This project holds a very special place in my heart just because I struggle with mental health too, so I wanted to find a way for us to have a conversation about it,” Pham said. “And I think BU is doing a better job of prioritizing students’ mental health now.”
COMSA meetings do not feel like a work commitment to Pham, who encourages the BU community to find something that they are passionate about.