Stanford University

Most Outstanding VSA of the Year: Stanford Vietnamese Student Association

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vsalsu/

What are the purpose and goal(s) of the VSA, and how has the VSA met or exceeded those goals?

SVSA strives to play an active role in the cultural, social, and political life of the Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American community at Stanford and beyond. This year, SVSA surpassed previous years in terms of quantity and variety of events, from preserving traditional events like Đừng Có Lo (DCL) Dates, where members are paired with each other and complete fun activities, to introducing a Vietnamese Language Table, where people can practice their Vietnamese. In addition, SVSA also made it a goal to create a strong internal team bond by organizing various social activities, such as casual study breaks and beach days.

Address how the VSA was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing, outreach to campus community, use of resources (financial, etc.), officer training and event planning.

Recruitment: This year, SVSA held a “Welcome (Back) Event” that had a high attendance of new and returning members. SVSA also utilizes an intern system, where incoming students can earn a core position in SVSA and learn about our different committees.
Marketing: In addition to creating flyers and keeping a strong presence on Facebook, we collaborated with local vendors, like Sharetea, for our Lunar New Year Festival and increased our presence off campus.
Outreach: We held our first ever Alumni brunch to give alumni a chance to reconnect, current members a chance to meet alumni, and everyone a chance to reflect on their experiences in SVSA. On campus, we work with other organizations, like the Stanford Pilipino-American Student Union to put on events like “Friendsgiving,” our version of Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve also planned mixers with other VSAs and hosted this year’s Norcal UVSA Olympics.
Resources/Training/Planning: SVSA regularly participants in API Leaders Workshops held by the Stanford Asian American Activities Center, as well as leadership-oriented workshops during SVSA retreat. Interns also gave first-hand experience by leading two events throughout the year, a social event of their choice and our end of the year banquet.

How did the group work to establish responsibility and accountability among its members?

The first retreat was focused on building a collective vision for our VSA. During this time, we clearly established individual and committee expectations and kept this as document for reference in the future. Later during the year, the SVSA Co-Chairs conducted multiple check-ins with committees and introduced weekly “Co-Chair Office Hours,” where members could come and discuss any issues they were having. SVSA also introduced KUDOS(VSA), where members could anonymously submit shoutouts to individuals for the work they’ve done or any other positive reason. In creating a strong communication line and an environment where we openly showed appreciation for each others’ time and efforts, SVSA established responsibility and accountability.

How did the VSA work together to maximize strengths and overcome weaknesses?

One of our biggest challengers happened early on. At the start of the academic year, three positions became vacant — Financial Officer and Culture Night Director (2). While we were eventually able to fill the role of Financial Officer, we could not do so for Culture Night Director. Thus, for the first time, Culture Night would be led by a single director. However, after much discussion, we implemented new Culture Night Committees to redistribute the responsibilities and were able to recruit a diverse set of people to help. Many core members also took on additional roles to fill in the gaps and SVSA was able to successfully put on Culture Night.

In addition, SVSA regularly seeks feedback to identify our strengths and weaknesses. For example, after each event, we will discuss the pros and cons as a group. We also send out quarterly feedback forms to all those on our mailing list and act on any suggestions the following quarter.

Provide specific examples of how the student group demonstrated growth and development in the 2016-2017 academic year,

SVSA’s Community Advocacy Committee, in particular, has shown significant growth this year. Community Advocacy’s goal is to promote student awareness of issues within the Vietnamese and API communities. This year, we started “Bạn Nghĩ Sao,” a weekly series where members of SVSA discussed topics ranging from sexualization and emasculation to police brutality. We also hosted campus-wide events, such as a movie screening and discussion of “Painted Nails” and book talk with the author of “The Best We Could Do,” an illustrated novel that examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home. Through these activities, SVSA was able to create a larger space to discuss prominent issues within the Vietnamese and API communities.