BY ANNAMARIE WIRE ’22, SAEE CHITALE ’22 AND SAM HERSH ’19
Student Government Association (SGA) Committees are student-run focus groups that work to solve problems to plan and to regulate systems that enable the smooth functioning of various aspects of the Mount Holyoke community.
They range in function from planning community projects and events to overseeing funding, helping ease orientation for international students and even managing the various student organizations on campus. While committees are student-run, many work with staff and administration in order to achieve their respective goals. In honor of Committee Yourself Week, the Mount Holyoke News wanted to take the time to feature a few of the many committees that are now accepting new student members.
The International Student Organizing Committee (ISOC) is run by co-chairs Anisha Pai ’19 and Di Guo ’21 and is one of three Identity Committees on campus. ISOC’s mission is to create a safe and inclusive space for international students as well as to provide resources and support to facilitate an easy transition for students studying abroad in the United States. Some of ISOC’s current programs include international students’ Orientation, putting out a journal publication and hosting various events such as snack tastings and open-mic nights. ISOC also hosts the annual Global Fest, a celebration of the diversity of culture in the community, featuring booths from each of the cultural organizations on campus, food, performances and music. “[Global Fest] is really about getting to revel in your own culture,” said Pai.
In addition to these programs, ISOC plans to host a series of “more dialogue-focused” events in the future, with topics ranging from understanding and addressing queerness in international cultures, African and Asian cultural diasporas and overcoming the cultural barriers that international students often face when studying at a foreign school.
Although ISOC’s primary focus is on the international community, domestic students are also welcomed and encouraged to attend their events. “Domestic students that come [to ISOC events] say that they enjoy it, and that they actually learn something about being an international student here,” said Guo.
Despite their involvement in so many aspects of international student life on campus, ISOC is the newest SGA committee, having previously been run through the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives. “The transition’s been pretty smooth,” said Pai about ISOC’s new committee status. “It’s been really nice to work with SGA and have [SGA’s] support.”
At the core of ISOC’s mission remains a deep commitment to making sure that every international student has a home at Mount Holyoke. “Our main job is Orientation,” said Guo, “especially with international springies, who need more support and help to navigate the experience and find the resources to help them.” Guo added, “Right now, ISOC is trying to push for adding another day to Orientation specifically for international students to continue the process of integrating into the Mount Holyoke community.”
Apart from ISOC, another important SGA committee is the Committee on Student Organizations (COSO), headed by Zoe Brown ’21 and Lydia Henning ’21. COSO is responsible for the organization of and communication between all of the student orgs that exist on campus. This committee is also responsible for reviewing ideas for new committees, approving them and looking after the budgeting requirements of all Mount Holyoke’s orgs.
A major event that COSO is responsible for is the Involvement Fair, which takes place once every semester. The Involvement Fair is meant to connect the student body, particularly new students, to orgs on campus, offering students a chance to discover the more than one hundred clubs that Mount Holyoke has to offer.
This semester, COSO is working on helping orgs that were approved last semester to get up and running. “Mostly,” said Brown, “that process involves getting orgs set up with the Ways and Means committee and encouraging them to apply for funding.”
Committees like COSO provide rare and valuable opportunities to learn about the internal machinations that keep a college running. “I got into SGA committees so that I could learn how to navigate the college bureaucracy,” said Brown, “so that I could understand how to effect change, hopefully creating a positive impact on the MHC community and beyond.”
Apart from ISOC and COSO, another notable committee is the ever-important Ways and Means Committee. Ways and Means is the financial overseer for all recognized student orgs, dividing and allocating money collected from the student activity fee included in Mount Holyoke’s tuition. They also ensure that the funding and transferences of money to SGA-approved orgs is being used in accordance with the school’s guidelines and are the financial voice for these student orgs.
The Ways and Means Committee meets weekly to review the funding applications orgs send in on a monthly basis and members hold regular office hours where they work with representatives from student orgs to go over their budgeting and funding requests. Representatives from Ways and Means each give one reading day during the exam period to conduct audits of these requests. Recent December graduate and former co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee Joud Mar’i ’19 said, “the Ways and Means Committee offers a considerable amount of experience with interpersonal communication and large-scale money management skills.” Mar’i went on to say that “serving on the committee can be a rewarding experience, [and provide] professional and personal development opportunities.” Mar’i added that “[Being a committee member] is an important and valued role that comes with serious amounts of work [and] responsibility.”
The Ways and Means Committee updates their guidelines every year, following audits at the end of each semester and a budget presentation to the SGA in April. According to Mar’i, the Committee also works closely with both the Business Office and the SGA treasurer to maintain financial records for each org.
Prospective Ways and Means members should expect to work hard and be flexible. “[Every member needs a] willingness to actively engage with students to ensure the MHC community has fair access to event,” said Mar’i.
Most representatives say that working in an SGA committee can be a tough, yet rewarding experience. Prospective committee members have a variety of exciting experiences and learning opportunities ahead of them, and those who missed Committee Yourself Week this semester will have the opportunity to join at the start of every semester. The work these committees do is crucial to keeping so many aspects of student life on campus running smoothly and providing opportunities for students to find their communities within the larger environment of the Mount Holyoke student body. Pai’s advice for students considering joining a committee is simple: “Do it, even if you don’t get in. It’s a great experience to have, if nothing else.”