Program Facilitators on SSI History : AY 2012

Photo of Morgan DumitruPhoto of Brian Laird

Morgan Dumitru and Brian Laird

Challenges Faced
During the 2012 academic year, two major challenges faced the SSI. The first of these challenges was retaining the culture, spirit, and community of the program despite growth and reorganization. Since joining the Department of Student Leadership and Involvement in the Summer of 2010, SSI had made significant progress in becoming more professional, reliable, and efficient. However, during this time, it also lost the community of students that once drove in support of the program. It began to rely more and more on paid staff and student fees. This shift allowed it to do more, and do it better. When the vision of the program, however, is to create a culture sustainability, the loss of a strong volunteer community was anything but a step forward. This was recognized, and the SSI took considerable steps throughout 2011 and 2012 to bring the SSI and that community back together again. The second challenge faced the SSI during the 2012 academic year was that, for the first time, it really begin to reach it's limits as a student-coordinated program. This could be addressed, to some extent, but restructuring, but that really only served as a stop-gap. The question still remains: how large can or should be SSI be, how much can it do, and what can we ask of staff and the students that support the program? This challenge, of trying to both improve and grow the program and also recognize the constraints, was crystallized in a number of different issues that arose during the year. One of these was that, due to the under-utilization of the Sustainable Energy Revolving Loan Fund, the SIFC decided to reduce the SSI's annual budget by approximately $50,000. Neither of these challenges were insurmountable, and they certainly didn't hold the SSI back from being amazingly successful. They did, however, reveal  underlying issues that they SSI would need to deal with later down the line.

What was Accomplished
Despite the challenges mentioned above, this was a very busy and successful year for the SSI. With each project coordinator focusing on a small number of individual programs and assisting with one or two collaborative projects, a huge number of projects and events were completed. These included the Sustainability Festival, the Building Energy Challenge, the Energy Civil War, a bio-fuels research center, an energy net-zero commitment, RecycleMania, Earth Week, a university food assessment, the Sustainable Cooking Series, edible container gardening workshops, Tasting Tables, a bicycle shelter green roof, the SSC garden, OSU landscaping practices and policies, a ride-share program, the Bicycle Extravaganza, a bike loan program, a bicycle physical activity course, OSU composting facilities, a composting trial in Halsell Hall, the Ban the Bag campaign, worm bin workshops, a sustainable film festival, the Spring Sustainability Celebration, and a half-dozen other small events and programs. Aproximately 30 students were actively involved in helping the SSI execute these activities, and another 2,067 participated. Across the seventeen events the SSI organized, the average cost per student participant was only about $4.78. In May 2012, the two Co-Director positions were replaced by a single Director position, the Financial and Administrative Coordinator position was changed to an Administrative Coordinator position and was redesigned to take a substantial portion of the program's administration over from the Director, the Partnerships Coordinator position was removed, and the Events and Outreach Coordinator position was changed to an Events Coordinator position with the outreach responsibilities reassigned to the Visibility Coordinator.

Words of Wisdom for Future
If there is one piece of advice we could get, it would be to take yourself seriously but not too seriously. A student-coordinated program is not a club, group, or social circle. It's a university unit, a social enterprise, and a nonprofit organization all rolled into one. The fact that it happens to be organized by students only makes it more dynamic and authentic. You should still treat yourself like an organization. Take assessment seriously, take care of your employees, Take your strategic plan into account when organizing projects and campaigns, and take the time to do the job right. At the same time, recognize that the other half of the work is creating a community and inspiring up-and-coming leaders. Student staff members and interns need some Woelfel about work-life balance, and it often falls to you to make sure that that is supported by the SSI. The point is: balance having fun with getting things done. Do that, and you will see the SSI continue to be as successful in its pursuits and as fufilling for its members as it has been for these past five years.