Susan Floyd is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin where she was the president of the SAA Student Chapter for 2014. UT-Austin’s chapter made an effort during her administration to increase student involvement, and Susan has agreed to share the experience in her post. You can follow the UT-Austin’s SAA chapter on Facebook and Twitter.
The Society of American Archivists – University of Texas Student Chapter is a professional organization of students at UT’s iSchool. Our mission, as outlined by the national organization, is to introduce and integrate new archivists into the profession, provide additional focus for students to discuss archival issues, and promote archival interests within the University, academic departments, and the public at large. Throughout the academic year, we invite guest speakers, arrange archival education events, and organize trips to area repositories as a way of expanding our education beyond the classroom. Founded in 1993 as the beta chapter of the SAA student movement, we have remained among the most active groups of student archivists for 22 years.
Officers for 2014 were myself, Susan Floyd, as President; Lauren Gaylord, Treasurer; Lilly Carrel, Treasurer; Rachel Winston, Secretary; Kathi Isham, Events Manager; and Angela Swift, Webmaster. A highlight of 2014 was attending the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting in Washington, DC—four of our officers were able to attend, and Ms. Gaylord was not only honored as a Mosaic Fellow, but organized and chaired an SAA student chapter officers’ roundtable during the conference which was attended by 50 current officers and the 2014 SAA President Danna C. Bell.
We successfully applied for funding from both the University of Texas Graduate Students Association and UT Student Government, totaling $572. We used these funds for promotions for our annual Archives Week coinciding with SAA’s national Archives Month in October. We produced our own SAA-UT-designed posters, fliers, and lapel pins. Our members were also very involved in promoting and staffing the inaugural Austin Archives Bazaar, which kicked off Archives Week. Funding was identified as one of the most pressing issues for student chapters at the SAA student leaders roundtable. In our experience, successfully receiving university funding was a time-consuming process involving multiple levels of approval, many prohibitive use restrictions, and an application process sufficiently long to prevent much event planning after funding disbursal. While we would encourage other chapters to go after institutional funds, it would be with this caveat: know exactly what you plan to use the money for; make sure it’s allowable according to your university’s rules; and make sure it is not your only plan. We were able to host many successful events with little to no overhead by using our iSchool’s classroom facilities, providing low-cost pizzas and vegetable platters, and securing high-impact speakers, often from within the local archival community. Many of our most popular speakers were in fact graduates of our program, who come back regularly to share their best advice with our group of emerging professionals. This also gives our members an invaluable opportunity to make professional contacts very early in their archival career, and fosters a sense of genuine collegiality.
To address another of the main challenges we faced as an incoming board in late February of 2014, we held a constitutional amendment referendum in November which resulted in changing our officer nominations period and election date from January to December. Taking effect in December 2015, this change will allow future incoming boards necessary time to complete university-required student organization registration and adequate time to plan member events for the spring semester.
Perhaps the key challenge for SAA-UT is turnout for events. Most of our members have multiple jobs and internships in addition to their coursework, and very few archives students have closely-tracking schedules, so it proved very difficult to get more than a handful of people to attend some of our activities, many of which were time-consuming for the board to plan. We advised the incoming 2015 board to review our event attendance records for the past few years and solicit feedback from current members regarding what types of activities are most likely to increase student involvement. We found that turnout was highest for career development-related events, such as our annual Academy of Certified Archivists exam presentation by local Certified Archivists in the spring and the internship opportunity panel we hosted early in the fall semester.
We also amped up our outreach efforts through social media and email communications. We continued to maintain our chapter’s active listserv, which allows us to share news, opportunities, and chapter events with our wide network of students, faculty, alumni, and friends. We also undertook a social media blitz in 2014, updating SAA-UT’s graphics across Twitter, Facebook, and other communications channels to reflect consistent “branding” centered on the famous image of Angelina Eberly, hero of the Texas Archives War. After our social media blitz, SAA-UT currently has 390 Twitter followers and 299 Facebook friends. After reaching these milestones, we hope to interact with more SAA student chapters and early career archivists this year, through SNAP and beyond. Come follow or friend us to meet our members and learn about SAA-UT’s ongoing activities in 2015!