Membership Engagement: Increasing Student Involvement
There is one universal truth among all AuD programs from the west coast to east coast, big programs to small programs, brand new or established – audiology students are busy. With a heavy workload as a common denominator, they are often facing similar challenges and barriers as well. One such challenge is how to keep students active and engaged in their Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) Chapter.
How do you increase student participation in events? How do you ask your already time-constrained peers to squeeze more plans into their calendars? What do you do when “please” isn’t enough? These same questions arose repeatedly in our time interacting with chapter leaders at AudiologyNOW! 2017 in Indianapolis. Using the tips and tricks in this article, we hope you can address some of those questions and be inspired to brainstorm new ways to approach membership engagement at your local SAA chapter.
Be Conscious of Filling an Already Full Pot
Try and highlight 2-3 major events/initiatives per year and space them out. For example, schedule one major event in the fall semester and one major event in the spring semester. While there may be additional smaller events, the big initiatives give students a goal for one or two they ‘don’t want to miss.’ If you’re able to schedule them in advance, students will be able to plan their calendars around them. Additionally, the bigger initiatives generally need more time planning and working ahead – too many large goals may unnecessarily overwhelm the students and cause a decrease in participation.
Consistent and Continuous Engagement is Key
Consider having repeat initiatives – whether it be something small that’s done monthly, or a big initiative you repeat every year. The small high-frequency involvement opportunities can be local humanitarian efforts that give back to the community and create a bond between your SAA Chapter and community; for example, local food banks are always looking for helping hands.
Josh’s Real World Example: In Oregon, I set a recurring schedule with the Oregon Food Bank. I required at least half of our SAA Chapter membership to volunteer to participate in this event monthly. Therefore, every third Saturday of the month, at least 8 members of our SAA Chapter would volunteer to help bag and package boxes of food that would be sent out to families all across the state of Oregon. The volunteer commitment lasted only 2.5 hours, which usually went from 8-10:30AM, and then the volunteers were done. This was a great system because if one month, a particular individual couldn't go, it was easy for someone who hadn't gone the month prior to volunteer for that month.
Consider a Traditional Meet & Greet at the Start of Every School Year
Get new students involved from day one – hold an event that allows first year students to interact with your SAA Chapter. Creating a welcoming sense of community will set your SAA Chapter up for success later, when you need these students to participate in activities. It’s important not to overwhelm brand new students; after all they’re just getting started in graduate school. If the first event has more of a social atmosphere, that may ease them into your chapter and create a smoother transition into becoming actively involved in your local chapter events.
Sarah’s Real World Example: At my local chapter, we work with the faculty while they’re creating the orientation schedule for the first years. They allow us an hour of time to come in and talk to the new students (while they’re all in one place), answer their questions, and invite them to the first SAA meeting. Then, we designate our first SAA Chapter meeting as a social meeting. The new students already recognize some faces from orientation, and they have the opportunity to mingle with other members as well.
Mutually Beneficial Relationship
It’s important to remember that being a member of a local SAA chapter is beneficial and valuable. It gives students the opportunity to participate in humanitarian efforts, advocate for their profession, and ultimately bulk up their curriculum vitae and resume with relevant, audiology-related experiences. Therefore, it is okay to require participation in x number of programs. Especially if participation in events is low, consider amending chapter bylaws to require a minimum number of events attended for maintaining membership. This will not only increase participation, but in turn create a sense of value in the SAA experience.
Think Outside of the Box
While the primary theme of SAA events are undeniably audiology related, don’t be afraid to try something new as well. There may be alternative options for fundraising or social events that require less effort and planning.
Josh’s Real World Example: At my local chapter, we contacted a local brewery and asked if we could pack the bar on the Friday night, would they be willing to give us a portion of the proceeds to help support other events we held throughout the course of the year? The local brewery was thrilled, as this offering would be mutually beneficial for all involved. They ended up giving us 25% of the total sales earned for that night and we PACKED the place. In fact, it was the busiest Friday night they'd ever had! Not only did we help increase awareness about their product, but we also brought a ton of business in the process. Students are likely going to get together and enjoy one another's company on the weekend anyways, why not do it together and help raise money for your local SAA Chapter in the process?
Use Your Resources
Never forget that we on the national SAA Board of Directors are always available to you as a resource or a sounding-board. If you feel as though your SAA Chapter is struggling with membership engagement and you want to have a conversation, please do not hesitate to reach out- you can find our contact information on the SAA webpage or you can reach out to your regional liaison.
Sarah Blue is a new graduate, completing her degree at the Northeast Ohio AuD Consortium (NOAC) this past May 2017. She completed her fourth year externship at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. She has been an active member of both her own local SAA chapter at NOAC (holding positions including first year representative, national liaison, and president) and national SAA (national Board of Directors from 2015-2017).
Joshua Huppert, SAA President, is currently a 3rd-year (of 3 years total) AuD graduate student at Pacific University in Oregon. His audiological interests include pediatric vestibular, advanced electrophysiology, and fitting bone-anchored hearing system technologies, particularly for patients with congenital ear anomalies. Joshua is completing his final-year clinical externship at Nemours/A.I. duPont's Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE.