What Active Membership Taught Me: A Reflection from a Former Student Chapter Chair

Written by: Suzanne Rogers Gruber

There are many things I could tell you about ASIS&T membership being good for your studies or your career, but you can already find them in the Prezi on the front page of this website that I made with the help of the Executive Committee. It’s quite likely that you’ve already heard the list, from instructors, other students, or coworkers.

Instead of re-hashing old themes, I’m going to tell you what I learned from my time in SJSU ASIS&T.

When I started at the School of Information (then known as SLIS), I knew that I was at least as interested in information science and technology as I was in libraries. I also knew that the job market in my area was tight and that I wasn’t going to relocate for a new position. ASIS&T seemed to be the organization that had the most to offer me, in terms of potential for my own professional development.

I started by attending online events and meetings, getting a feel for the student chapter and the range of interests. My favorite event was the end-of-semester pre-registration social hour, where students shared their recommendations and experiences with each other as we planned our courses of study. At the end of my first year, I ran for Programming Director and joined the Executive Committee. A semester after that, I became Chair.

That’s when the fun really started.

I was afraid of becoming Chair. It was enough to be Programming Director. I am an introvert. I like to work alone. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, and that I was going to make a fool of myself in front of the entire universe. For my very first Executive Committee business meeting as Chair, with our chapter’s faculty adviser and director of our school attending, I was recovering from oral surgery. I could barely speak. I was so nervous I had to take my mic off when I wasn’t talking so that it wouldn’t pick up the rattle from my hands shaking.

I was convinced the rest of the committee was going to say that this had all been a terrible mistake and would I please get lost.

And then… it went really well. We discussed, we planned, and we got all of our little organizational ducklings in a row and going in the right (same) direction.

We had a fantastic year, cleaning up and documenting our processes and procedures, running great events both by ourselves and with other student groups. We reached out for and incorporated our members’ feedback at every opportunity.

During my year on the SJSU ASIS&T Executive Committee, I learned how to:

  • Run business meetings and online events efficiently and effectively
  • Plan projects for both the tiny details and the big picture
  • Recruit new members and new leaders
  • …and help them transition into their roles
  • Create and strengthen collaborations between individuals and organizations in ways that were beneficial to everyone
  • Balance the needs of an organization with the wants of its individual members

In my previous professional lives, I hid from management roles. I wanted to work solo, not as a team, and certainly not leading a team. The single most important thing I learned from my time on the SJSU ASIS&T Executive Committee was that I am, in fact, a team player.

I love working with people who are engaged and invested in the work they are doing. I love being part of the team that strategizes, organizes, and then executes the master plan. I even like leading the team and then handing the job off when it’s someone else’s turn.

My sense of who I am professionally, and the kind of role I want to find after I graduate, has changed completely, thanks to my time as a member of SJSU ASIS&T.

One of the most difficult parts of student leadership—one of the things we talk about quietly amongst ourselves but have a difficult time admitting to in public—is that recruiting and retaining members is hard. Recruiting new leaders is really hard. Everyone has other responsibilities: families, jobs, classes, and lives. Asking for your time and effort is difficult, because we know how many demands and responsibilities you already have. It’s a lot to ask, and it takes a lot for you to say yes.

I can tell you, though, that the benefits are more than worth the time spent. The opportunities for involvement in ASIS&T cover a wide range of possible activities and skillsets; it’s up to you to decide what you want to learn and what you’d like to pursue. You get back what you give, and then some. It has brought me tremendous satisfaction to see this year’s Executive Committee not just carry out the projects we set in motion last year, but continually improve and expand upon them. I’m proud to have been a part of it, and I can’t wait to see where SJSU ASIS&T goes from here.

I hope to see many of you be a part of it, too.


(Suzanne Rogers Gruber was Chair of SJSU ASIS&T Spring 2014 & Programming Director for Fall 2013.)