Student leaders from across campus met under the Undergraduate Student Government banner Wednesday night at USG’s first Council of Presidents, an event bringing together executive officers from campus organizations for collaboration, networking and a chance to voice their concerns to USG.
Named for the event’s goal — to provide a forum for the presidents of student organizations to meet and share their ideas — the Council of Presidents hosted representatives from 70 different student organizations and featured presentations from USG’s six advocacy directors, USG President Holden Slusher and USG Vice President Ashlie Chan. About 100 student leaders attended and were given feedback forms to fill out over the course of the night.
“It’s letting them know what we’re doing, but the equally important half is them letting us know what they want to see,” said Chris Cheng, director of outreach for USG. “We believe our changes are great, but this organization represents the student body at large, and we want their input. We seek that in order to make our ideas better.”
Aside from giving student leaders information about USG’s current and future projects and soliciting their input, the event also highlighted what the USC Master Plan has in store for the university, with a presentation by Kristina Raspe, associate senior vice president of real estate and asset management at USC.
Although the Council of Presidents is the first event of its kind in recent USG history, the idea of uniting presidents from every student organization under one roof is not new to USC.
In the 1940s, USG’s Senate was comprised of all the presidents of USC’s student organizations. Once that practice was discontinued, USG administrations continued to host forums similar to the Council of Presidents until 2000, Slusher said.
After learning about this piece of USG history from a former president of the organization, Slusher said he wanted to bring the student leader forum back to USC.
“It’s one of those events where you don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re going to get information to them, and they’re going to give us feedback, and anything else that happens is kind of a perk,” he said.
Many student leaders who attended the event said the Council of Presidents was an opportunity for them to learn about other campus organizations and to make themselves available as resources for other student leaders.
“There are a lot of organizations on campus, and this gives them a chance to meet each other,” said Eric Stein, president of the SCuba Knights and a sophomore majoring in economics. “We are the Trojan Family, so we should work together,”
Lisa Robinson, president of Society 53 and a senior majoring in communication, said the event gave student leaders a chance to act as a support system and brainstorming mechanism for each other.
“As student leaders, a lot of us go through the same things. We’re learning how to lead organizations and deal with a lot of people,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to bounce strategies off each other and partner to see how we can serve USC better.”
Blessing Waung, president of the Panhellenic Council and a senior majoring in print journalism and East Asian languages and cultures, said the event was a valuable resource, and she hopes USG will continue to host it in the future to give student leaders the support they need.
“I’m coming to the end of my term, while some people may be in the middle of theirs or just beginning,” Waung said. “Being able to talk to someone about what worked and what didn’t work would have been nice to have when I was starting out … but hopefully now I can provide that for others.”
USG spent $1,300 to host the Council of Presidents and hopes to give the event and its budget the chance to grow if it becomes a staple, Cheng said.
“This is kind of our test run, and we’ll have to step up to bat and see how it goes,” he said. “We’re really feeling the mover-and-shaker ideas [happening] at the Council of Presidents among the student leaders. Hopefully they feel like it’s an official event they’ll want to come back to.”
David Hsu, vice chair for Webb Tower Building Government and a sophomore majoring in health administration, said he would attend the Council of Presidents again if USG continued to host it and that the presentations gave him much-needed information he would not have learned otherwise.
“It was actually very interesting,” Hsu said. “We found out a lot about what they’re doing, which is really great because a lot of students don’t know.”