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Building Partnerships


The Clarice: NextNOW Fest 2021

To compile a representative mix of student arts organizations on campus, I researched student organizations through social media and UMD’s TerpLink, which lists registered student organizations. I reached out to student organizations that have already been involved in NextNOW Fest in past years, as well as organizations that have never been involved in the festival.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I met with student organization representatives primarily over Zoom. I became accustomed to reaching out to an organization email address to inquire about their desired involvement in the festival. I would receive a reply back from a representative of the organization and we would schedule a meeting over Zoom. During the first meeting with an organization, I gave a background about the festival (sometimes more descriptive, for younger students or newer organizations), provide the dates of the festival, remind them of the ever-changing public health climate during the COVID-19 pandemic (which could greatly affect the festival format—in-person versus virtual versus hybrid), and ask the organization members what event or activity their organization could bring to the festival. Three of the organizations I worked with were led by people I knew prior to my work with NextNOW Fest, but the other four organizations I worked with were led by people I had never met before. I strengthened my networking skills by starting each meeting with hearing short personal introductions from student leaders and giving my own introduction, and finding commonalities to break the ice and forge a strong partnership.

After my first few meetings with student organizations, I learned the impact of creating an agenda for meetings. My first few meetings had been conducted without agendas, but I found that meetings without agendas left out information I had meant to address in the meetings. Once I began setting aside time to carefully consider agenda items and the order in which they were presented, meetings ran more smoothly and fewer follow-up emails were required because meetings were more productive. I shared agendas with the student organizations I met with and I encouraged them to add their own agenda items so that we each contributed to the agendas. Going forward, any meeting I plan will have a written agenda to document what I want to accomplish in meetings.

Working with a number of student organizations has strengthened my ability to communicate effectively with others. For any exchange of information that was not carried out over Zoom, I encouraged student organizations to communicate with me over email. Many students were more likely to text me, but I replied to those texts with a request for the information to be sent over email so there would be a record of it.

I learned that imposing deadlines can be crucial to creating momentum and encouraging productivity in student organizations. When I first met with student organizations in February and March, I set goals with student organizations for our next meeting—both in terms of what work would be accomplished before the next meeting and when we would schedule the next meeting. This was certainly helpful for encouraging productivity between meetings, but as spring turned to summer, it was clear that I needed to set more strict deadlines for work. Though students are entitled to their time off over the summer, in this case, they had signed on with the understanding that they would need to complete work over the summer. Therefore, I set deadlines for particular days (not necessarily requiring a meeting, perhaps asking work to be emailed to me) and for specific deliverables. These deadlines increased productivity, but did not always guarantee that the student organizations would fully complete the work by the deadline. My imposition of deadlines acted as a catalyst, but it was the involvement of student organizations’ faculty advisors that got the work completed in a reasonable time frame. For that, I am grateful to the faculty advisors for donating their time and expertise to aiding the production of some of the festival events. As a result, when considering student curator-student organization relationships for future iterations of NextNOW Fest, I recommended that NextNOW Fest requires student organizations to have a faculty mentor involved in their festival event preparation. Although deadlines were a helpful temporary solution for encouraging student organization productivity, it was enlightening to learn the power of involving a mentor with expert knowledge in the field of the student organization.

All of these takeaways from working with student organizations will be tremendously beneficial in future teamwork situations. In every relationship with a student organization, I functioned as a task manager and as a working member of the team. As a task manager, I learned the importance of assigning specific tasks to individual people, rather than leaving it up to the team to get it done. As a working team member, I came to know the effectiveness of individual assignments. Team members were more likely to feel personal responsibility for completing the work if it was assigned to individual people, leading work to get done more efficiently. In future opportunities for collaboration, I look forward to applying my extensive lessons learned from working with student organizations for NextNOW Fest.



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