Most Outstanding VSA of the Year: University of Texas at Austin Vietnamese Student Association
What are the purpose and goal(s) of the VSA, and how has the VSA met or exceeded those goals?
The main purpose of Texas VSA is to unite the Asian American community on the UT Austin campus by creating a family and a home away from home, servicing the Austin community, raising awareness for the Vietnamese culture, and helping members create friendships through intramural sports. For the 2016-2017 academic year, Texas VSA focused on improving internal and external relationships. This meant that we wanted to be more of a presence on campus as well as within UVSA South. For internal relations, our vice president internal worked tirelessly on continuously staying in contact with all Asian American organizations on campus. This year alone, we were able to participate in various internal events such as Jade Ribbon Pageant, Mr. Pink Pageant, and TASA Night Market. In doing so, we showed that Texas VSA supports all of the Asian American organizations on campus. In response to this, Texas VSA received a overwhelming support for our annual Date Auction. This event invited the larger Asian American organizations to perform and fund raise for UNAVSA’s CPP. The support we received showed that Texas VSA has started the transition from competition to collaboration with the Asian American community at UT Austin. In terms of external relations, Texas VSA had pushed the largest-ever initiative to get our members more active within UVSA South. We brought members out to 3 external events a semester which is the most that Texas VSA has ever done. Within this academic year, Texas VSA participated in OU’s Lunar Moon Festival, Baylor’s Autumn Moon Festival, UTD’s VSA By Night, UVSA South’s Annual Leadership Summit, and UVSA South’s Unity Tour. With this, Texas VSA was able to make our presence known. Our efforts were reciprocated when Date Auction and Convention, our annual leadership conference, was able to bring out hundreds of external members. Our members were impacted by numerous members throughout UVSA South and we believe the opposite hap pened as well. Texas VSA, after this year, is extremely hopeful for the future in terms of internal and external relations.
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.
In recruitment, Texas VSA has one of the most unique methods. Texas VSA tables in the plaza 4 days a week for the entire academic year. In the beginning this is used to recruit new incoming freshmen as well as provide information to any people passing by. Throughout the semester, though, the table becomes a place for socialization and bonding for its members.
Marketing is one of Texas VSA’s fortes. For every big event, Texas VSA will push out a profile picture for each officer as well as coverphotos and events on Facebook. Texas VSA also fully utilizes numerous social media platforms to push these events out. The most notable, however, are Texas VSA’s biweekly videos that use comedy to pub events.
The outreach to campus community is extremely relevant in our efforts to increase internal relations throughout UT. We are constantly participating and communicating with other Asian American organizations to create the most collaborative space for Asian Americans.
Texas VSA functions off of $15000 a year which is made through sponsorship as well as various fund raising efforts. Texas VSA tries to make sure that every single penny spent is going towards the members and nothing else. In doing so, we are able to provide an extremely low membership fee of $20. We dedicate all of our money on charity, our members, and Asian Olympics.
Though we don’t have an officer training program, the officers are requirement to meet once a week for the entire year. Every week, we meet and recap about old events and what we can learn from those as well as planning for new events and new ideas that we believe would benefit the members of Texas VSA.
Texas VSA is well versed at event planning. For each event, the responsible officer is required to have an itinerary of the event at least a week before the event. We also have an extremely large database of previous event itineraries to look at and learn from. Through this, we try to create the most thought-out events.
How did the group work to establish responsibility and accountability among its members?
Texas VSA is extremely unique in that we don’t have a set system for responsibility and accountability within our members. Other organizations have a point system to make sure that members stay active but Texas VSA has always decided against this system. Texas was founded on the idea that it is a social org that “is what you make it”. Members get out exactly what they put in. If a member participates in all of our events and attends all of our workshops and socials, we can guarantee that he/she will get a ton out of the organization. However, if a member only focuses on one part of our organization such as sports, we won’t try and force that member to participate in more. However, we do have a family system in place in which the 300+ members are placed into 8 families with each family being led by 2 officers. In these families, the officers communicate and care for the members to try and show them that Texas VSA can be a home away from home. Knowing t his, a lot of our members are extremely receptive to this constant communication and comes out to our events regularly. Texas VSA is just fortunate to have a history of this so we are often able to host upwards of 80 members at small events and up to hundreds for larger events. That being said, we do have an intern program set in place for the spring semester that establishes responsibility within various active interns. These interns make a silent promise to those around them that they will stick around and help through all of the struggles and frustrations to fund raise and plan the annual VSA banquet. This intern program is also not forced upon anyone and every person can choose to leave whenever they want but we often see the most active members through this program and these interns often become officers.
How did the VSA work together to maximize strengths and overcome weaknesses?
Texas VSA has always had a strong set of strengths. Texas VSA often hosts an extremely large membership due to the fact that the organization is extremely old and has a lot of history. Texas VSA also has a lot of precedent set before this year in terms of the marketing abilities. And with these, the 2016-2017 officers were able to take full use out of these strengths by using our history and our connections throughout campus to constantly bring in more new members as well as members that may have left. We also took what worked in terms of marketing strategies and maximized those during our term. Our videos became more high quality and our pictures and graphics become for informative and creative in order to grab the most attention. We also began to exercise our power on social media more often by creating a community on facebook, twitter, snapchat, and instagram. However, we did have some weaknesses which included a connotation that Texas VSA was very cliquey and that Texas VSA did not care for anything outside of UT Austin. In order to address the cliquey factor, Texas VSA sought out to constantly be friendly to other organizations. We participated in numerous on campus events and tried our best to show support for every organization that we meet. We also tend to offer advice or marketing help to the smaller organization’s events that we could not participate in. In terms of the Texas VSA relation to organizations outside UT Austin, we tried out best to we very communicative with other VSAs across the state and tried to show up support, again, through attending their events and inviting them to ours and treating their VSA’s members with the highest respect and care. Though we had other minor weaknesses and strengths, these majors ones kind of show how Texas VSA is able to deal with overcoming weaknesses as well as maximizing the strengths that we have.
Provide specific examples of how the student group demonstrated growth and development in the 2016-2017 academic year.
First, in terms of our internal relations, we were able to host one of the largest Date Auctions in Texas VSA history. We were able to host more than 350 people and raised over $3000 for UNAVSA’s CPP. Second, we were also able to take out record numbers of members out for external events with the largest being 40+ members to Baylor’s Autumn Moon Festival. This was unheard of in past Texas VSA external events and is truly paving the way for better future external relations. Thirdly, our Academic Chair, Lily Huynh was named Miss Jade in the annual Jade Ribbon Pageant. This is a significant award for Texas VSA as this is an event hosted by another Asian American organization and winning this award allowed us to be more well known among the community. We had a record amount of volunteering events within Austin’s Vietnamese community. We worked with the Vietnamese American Community in Austin Texas to provide volunteers for major events that reached out to all of Austin’s Asian American community as well as provide weekly volunteers for Summitt Elementary School’s Vietnamese after school program. We also had numerous teams reach playoffs in intramural volleyball and football and a record breaking alumni scholarship of over $500. In concluding all of these achievements, Texas VSA was also nominated and received the award of the Best Social Organization by the Dean of Students on the UT Austin campus. This is an extremely prestigious award as there are hundreds of social organizations that compete for this award.