Edited by Tasmiyah Randeree
Launching a student society at your college or university can be hard. From advertising to laying the foundation, from getting volunteers to organizing an event, it’s easy to lose control. Executives of the English and Drama Student Society, EDSS, from University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus, Carl Kersey, Christina Khokhar, and Nicole Dingle share how they resolved conflicts in EDSS and their advice for others societies.
Taking a trip down memory lane, Carl narrates the story of his affair with EDSS. “I knew about EDSS in my first year, but I got involved in my second year. My friends were participating in so many activities, and I wanted to do something too and EDSS felt like a club I could connect with. I sent them an email about involvement, and they informed me about the upcoming applications and I have been a part of them since then.”
Christina too started early with EDSS, but her story begins in her first year when she wanted to find her niche while she juggled a ton of activities. “In high school, I was hyper-involved, and I loved the sense of community that that fostered. So, when I came into my first year, I immediately did a million things. But EDSS stood out to me. I filled the applications and joined the team as the social events director. Carl was one of the interviewers, and we have known each other since.”
Nicole had a different experience. “I have never been into the whole comradery thing, it’s not easy for me talking to people. I only took a chance with EDSS in my third year when Carl became more involved and pulled me along. So I applied for the editor’s position and got it. And through my editor’s position, I met Shalini, the then editor-in-chief. She was everything I wanted to be as an upper-year. Then Shalini asked me to submit my own essays. I was meeting more people, working with wonderful people, and it really helped me build my sense of self as a writer and a student.”
Here’s a list of the things they want people to focus on while creating and working in clubs.
- Divide tasks- Three simple words, don’t go overboard. “We learnt from experience when a person is trying to take on too many tasks. Two years ago, we wanted to host an academic symposium along with the journal, and we had the academic events director who was trying to take the lead on both of those things. Both are massive year-long projects that require one's full attention. We had to postpone the symposium. So, the next year, we gave the journal’s full responsibility to the editor-in-chief, and the rest of the events and EDSS works went to the events director. We managed to get two people, with two separate jobs working together to develop their ideas and events.” Carl explains how they deal with assigning different tasks to different people to reduce the workload per person.
- Collaborate- “On a purely logistical level, the more people you collaborate with, the more people will come to your events because your network and connection multiplies,” Carl says. “Build on ideas of collaboration and inclusivity in everything that you do.” Christina adds. “When you collaborate with other clubs, it gets your name out there. It also creates connections, and that’s integral to the existence of all clubs and societies. It’s also important for creating a community that’s sustainable too. In the end, building a community through collaboration is the best way to create growth within your self and the society.”
- Advertise effectively- Posters and social media, tabling and collaboration are all amazing ways to advertise your clubs. “At the end of the day, word of mouth will always be the best way to spread information about your club. If you can peak interest, then you can get people talking, and that’s the best thing for your club.” Carl suggests. “And even before that,” Christina jumps in, “planning is also important. Making sure you have everything ready in advance, making sure all the details and materials are at your disposal, and having everything organized goes a long way in the advertising phase.” “You have to go in with a game plan, and you have to stick by it,” Nicole adds. “It’s so easy to look at your schedule and say, I have a couple more days till the due date, but no! You have to stick by the timeline, especially with the journal. You are dealing with a lot of people.”
- Take initiative, take responsibility- “Last year EDSS hosted an undergrad research symposium, which was one of the few to be hosted on the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus. And this summer, we have been in contact with the English Student Union at the University of Toronto St. George campus and we are discussing a tri-campus research symposium. Usually, if you propose an idea and you knock, knock, and you knock for people to work with you, people generally agree to work with you, only if you show the endeavour and the commitment for that. Others will follow.” Carl explains. Christina adds, “At the end of the day, it’s all about where you set your goals, and how much are you willing to work for them. And that’s also the basis of the entire university experience, interact, mingle, share ideas and come up with something new and creative.”
- Know your audience- “For us, EDSS specifically, we can’t just advertise ourselves as an exclusive English club because we cater to so many forms of writings and academics which is sometimes not conveyed that well. It’s easy to come off as not as collaborative as we would like to seem, but we need to steer through this issue. Even though our journal deals with stories, and academic essays, we are an inclusive club and we like to work with and interact with as many people as possible. And our message really is just ‘Let’s team up! Let’s make UTM really important!’” Nicole exclaims.
- Build a support system- Work for each other, and work with each other as a community. Carl discusses the senior student involvement. “They always help the young students, not only within the society but also outside of it. Shalini, especially, would send us material related to grad school. We can always reach out to our alumni for any questions. You build an incredible support system that remains strong even after you graduate. We also asked our seniors to keep a note of the things that worked for them, and the things that were troublesome so that we always have something to consult with.”
- Healthy competition- Maintain a healthy competition within the community, and remember the key word in there is healthy, and not competition. Nobody is trying to tear each other down. Be mentors for each other, and you will naturally attract more audience members. “EDSS values creating new experiences in the university, and involvement is the best way to foster a healthy community and facilitate your own growth,” Christina elaborates.
- Volunteer involvement- To keep a stable volunteer turnout, you want to increase their involvement in the events. Christina explains this point, “Rather than just inviting them out to the event, have the volunteers work with the event. It can be as small as having them create a set-up crew, or a take-down crew just so that they also feel a sense of responsibility in terms of what’s happening in the club.”
- Be more than a club- “As a student, especially in university or college, there are two sides to you; the student side and the adult side. As a student society, you need to care for both sides, and that’s what EDSS is built on. It’s really important to us that you have fun, and you grow outside of school. But at the same time, keep school important while trying to grow through your identity as a student and your extra curriculars,” Nicole explains.
Find your goals, find where you want to expand, and figure out what you need to get there. Always look, not just one year ahead, but two or three. And figure out what you want to leave for other people to work with, focus on the legacy you want to leave behind.
All image credits belong to Hazel Morada.