If you are considering running for State Chair or interested in what our State Chair does, this blog has advice from former State Chair’s on their year in the position. Our State Chair represents our students and the board’s interests in many capacities from testifying, meeting with the Chancellor, to meeting with leaders on university campuses. The advice given in this blog is from the following people listed below.
Former State Chair Kari Cooper | 2014-2015 academic year
Former State Chair Cara Luebke | 2015-2016 academic year
Former State Chair Faiçal Rayani | 2017-2018 academic year
Former State Chair Tony Rust | 1998 academic year
What are the top three skills/attributes that helped you be successful?
Flexibility/adaptability - when you're in the state chair role, you will be asked to be at a lot of meetings and work with a lot of different people and personalities, so I think it's important to be able to flexible both with your schedule and with your approach to working with different people.
Leadership - probably a given, but I think anyone in the state chair role needs to keep the goals/priorities of the board at top of mind, and remember that you're speaking on behalf of all students, not for yourself. It's important to keep a positive attitude at all times and encourage your team to keep the goal in mind.
Sense of humor - Don't take it too seriously! Have fun, it's an incredible opportunity to advocate for students' well-being and college affordability. Don't make it about the position or the politics, do it because you really care and have fun making a difference.
Luebke: I put a lot of trust and time into building relationships with the officers, the Board, and Students United staff. I chose 1 priority during my interview and application process instead of many, and I spent as much time as I could with students at delegates to learn from them.
Goal Driven Mentality - When I set goals, I find that I either achieve them or achieve something equally valuable along the way. My goal that I kept to myself was to further improve the culture of the organization and serve Students United in the absolute best way possible. Having my own goals didn't mean that I would have a narrow focus. In fact, feeling out for the goals of those around me and achieving those goals inadvertently fueled progress towards my own goal profoundly.
Flexibility- Issues, roadblocks and unanticipated goals made themselves present in our path. Instead of pushing them aside, we decided to embrace them and work them into the grand plan plan. On the interpersonal level, flexibility was immensely important in nurturing relationships and navigating conflict.
Love for the subject area - It's cheesy but love helped me make the right decisions. Every person makes thousands of choices a day, most unconsciously, and love makes for a great moral compass to make decisions. I find that if I sincerely care for something, it shows in my actions, and those actions often produce good.
Rust: Presentation Skills, Building Consensus, Understanding Human character and using that to communicate in a way they will receive my message positively.
How time consuming was this position? How often were you in the cities/traveling to campuses?
Cooper: I lived in Minneapolis, so that made it easier to be available for legislative affairs and working with the MnSCU (now MN State) administration on a number of initiatives. I also did quite a bit of traveling to the campuses. I don't believe there needs to be a strict expectation for time spent traveling around the cities or to the different campuses, because at the end of the day you're a student first. It obviously helps if you have a flexible schedule and are willing to do the most you can, but there's a reason the organization has full-time staff and campus committees, etc. The State Chair doesn't have to assume ALL of the responsibility. If you're elected, I suggest sitting down with the staff and the other officers and set clear expectations for the year.
Luebke: It was very time consuming, but also not! That year I worked 2 part time jobs and took online classes and served as State Chair. It taught me a LOT about time management. It can be done if you are an organized individual who knows how to delegate responsible. I spent as much time as I could on campus, which was usually a trip 1x a month, and went into the office weekly (if possible).
Rayani: The position was as time-consuming as I wished it to be which was great. I budgeted two days a week to spend entirely on Students United as State Chair. I would also join impromptu meetings, calls and reply to emails outside of that.
Rust: The first semester I lived in Marshall and commuted to the Twin Cities three times a month. The second semester I interned at the capital and lived in the Twin Cities. The monthly time commitment was at least one full week a month.
Were there any responsibilities you had in your officer role that you didn't think about when running?
Cooper: I had been a board member for two years prior to getting elected to the State Chair position, so I had a pretty good idea of responsibilities, work load, and expectations. The staff really helped prep me for meetings and testifying, so that made it a little less daunting!
Luebke: When I was running, I thought most about providing exceptional governance to the board and a lot less about all of the other stuff. If I was interested in running again, I would work with the Executive Director and officers to determine where your skills lie and dive into that responsibility. Then, delegate things like testifying or MinnState work to your team or students. I thought this strategy worked well for me.
Rayani: Recruiting other students. It's so important but often overlooked! The majority of the time we needed to find other students to serve on committees, review policies and participate in events.
Rust: No, I enjoyed all those aspects of the job.
For students considering running what advice do you have for them?
Cooper: Do the most good with the time and opportunities you're given!
Luebke: My advice would be to learn from everyone and everything around you and use this unique space wisely. It’s remarkable to be the Chair of such a fantastic organization with incredible staff. You do not need to know everything, and it’s better if you don’t. Ask questions before you dive into the process and walk through it with a lens towards learning.
Have goals and a plan for your position, do not run for the sake of running.
Build relationships with current and outgoing board members. Explain your goals and get some ideas for how to achieve them. Learn their story and listen to their ideas too.
Don't take yourself too seriously, this is an opportunity to help other students so treat it as such. It's not the end of the world if you lose an election but it's a great experience if you win.
Be flexible and don't bring your own ego to the table. The last thing any board of any kind needs is more egos. Leave your ego at home, please.
Rust: If you're not a consensus builder you will struggle in your role. Getting all 7 universities focused on the same strategies and objectives is key to any real success during your term.
What was your favorite part about being a Students United (MSUSA) officer?
Cooper: I've met some of the greatest people and some of my best friends through my time with MSUSA. A number of my favorite memories from college were MSUSA related. Although it was challenging at times, I am a better person personally and professionally because of the experience.
Luebke: Meeting with other student regularly! I loved the times we could learn from other campuses and share our successes. Even though delegates conferences often became long and arduous, the dedication and feeling in the room was infections. I couldn’t help but think about all of the exciting things the people in that room had to offer the organization and that I had the chance to take them up on it.
Rayani: The people and community were my favorite part of being involved with Students United. The students, Students United staff, fellow organizations, the higher ed community, the public officials and Minnesota State.
Rust: Leading the lobbying effort of the seven state universities.
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