SAA discovers gateway to success in St. Louis

Maggie Johnson
Guest Writer

Running a successful organization requires numerous brainstorming sessions to gather ideas and plan events. In order to get a head start on the semester, many of these brainstorming sessions need to happen before the student body actually arrives at Millersville. For this reason, the Student Alumni Association (SAA) traveled to St. Louis this summer to learn about the “Gateway to Success.”

Four SAA members and the organization’s advisor attended the 41st CASE ASAP Network Convention hosted by Webster University and Iowa State University. The conference took place from Aug. 7 to Aug. 9 at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel.

Mid-air, the Student Alumni Association found time for fun while attending the 41st CASE ASAP Network Convention.
Mid-air, the Student Alumni Association found time for fun while attending the 41st CASE ASAP Network Convention.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education Affiliated Student Advancement Programs (CASE ASAP) is an organization comprised of more than 300 institutions and is dedicated to enhancing student involvement in advancement programs related to alumni relations.

As an organization that is dedicated promoting positive interactions between current student and Millersville alumni, SAA is a member of CASE ASAP and regularly attends both national and regional conferences. The organization attended the District II regional conference at Daemen College last semester.

While the regional conference allows SAA to interact with and learn from other university organizations located around the Mid-Atlantic area, the national convention offers them the opportunity to network on a much larger scale.
“I love being able to network with other students from universities that are larger, smaller, or the same size as MU. We are all together to do the same thing: benefit our universities,” said SAA Vice President Ashley Ayers.

During the convention, each SAA member attended seven different sessions on a variety of topics centered on the theme of the “Gateway to Success.” The sessions provided information on recruiting new members, leading an organization, expanding alumni involvement, and increasing university pride. The CASE ASAP convention also offered signature “how-to” programs in which organizations shared how they run some of their most successful campus events.

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Each session was led by the student leaders of the different organizations, giving the Millersville attendees the chance to learn about organizations from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Ohio State University, the University of Florida, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Kansas. Networking with the larger universities gave the students a glimpse of what their organization could become.

Dr. Harf, a Millersville alumnus, met up with students in St. Louis for the convention.
Dr. Harf, a Millersville alumnus, met up with students in St. Louis for the convention.

“It was a cool experience to see what people all across the nation were doing with their club. It was also really cool to meet students from all across the nation. I was extremely impressed with the University of Tennessee. They have an amazing program, and it is something we should strive for,” said SAA Social Media Secretary Morgan Speakman.

On Friday, the CASE ASAP convention hosted a luncheon with keynote speaker Patrick Powers. Powers is a project manager at mStoner, Inc., a company that specializes in branding, website redesign, and digital marketing for higher education institutions. As a nationally recognized expert in the use of social media, he discussed the importance of creating and maintaining a positive online image.

While students were busy attending sessions during the day, they had free time during the night to explore St. Louis. Although the conference ended Saturday night, SAA did not start their journey back to Millersville until Sunday evening. The extra time allowed the group to further explore the city.

“Exploring St. Louis was great, as we were able to see the Arch, City Museum and eat at several local establishments,” said SAA Treasurer Adam Good.

The group also explored the St. Louis Zoo.

Heather Morris, SAA advisor and the Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving, organized a meeting between the students and Dr. James Harf. Harf is a Millersville alumnus who sponsors a study abroad scholarship and supports Millersville football’s Game Changers initiative.

“Meeting Dr. Harf was fantastic. He had so many interesting stories, and his life really showed me that if you work hard you can do anything,” Speakman said.

The three day convention concluded with an awards banquet and a ‘90s Dance Party. SAA was recognized during the awards ceremony through the nomination of past Graduate Assistant advisor, Matt Storm. Although he did not win, it was an honor for the organization to be acknowledged on a national level. Speakman was also honored for winning the District II Scholarship.

SAA brought back many new ideas about events for students and how to improve the organization from the CASE ASAP National Convention. The organization is looking forward to attending the next regional conference at Ithaca College and the next national conference in Washington, D.C.