What Kappa Omicron Nu chapter is the busiest? The gold medal this year goes to Omicron Mu at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. With 41 options, there’s something for everyone on their schedule. The adviser at Omicron Mu is Amanda Gonzalez-Rashkin M.Ed., GCDF, CCSP and she was given the role soon after she came to Cornell in 2018. I chatted with her a little about their exceptional schedule.
“We couldn’t have accomplished our 2020-2021 robust event schedule without the hard work of our incredible Executive Board students: lead by President: Elizabeth Farkouh – Spring ’21, Executive Vice President: Maura McLaughlin – Spring ’21, VP of Communications: Pearlanna Zapotocky – Spring ’21, VP of Service Management: Neri Yun – Spring ’21, and VP of Alumni Affairs: Taeyoung Park – soon to be KON President in Fall ’21. In normal times, our Executive Board members have the support of three committees: Community Service, Professional Development, and Social. These committees are made up of KON general body members, who help our Executive Board students plan and execute KON events. However, our 2020-2021 academic year had unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic, which led to our decision to keep event planning as simple as possible and just have myself and our five Executive Board students plan all of the events together during our bi-weekly Executive Board meetings. These students rose to the challenge and showed unparalleled levels of dedication, leadership, and perseverance by going above and beyond to deliver a meaningful experience for our KON members via a wide variety of mission-oriented virtual events.”
At the beginning of the semester, the Executive Board got together for a retreat and planning session. They began their planning by looking at their previous year’s programming to see what activities they wanted to do again. Then they add a few new ideas. That’s their foundation schedule. After that, they found more content and added other activities as they went along. There were a lot of pandemic activity ideas, and they used the KON national webinar series content that was offered. Events run from 30 minutes to two hours and might attract 10-20 members each.
The dates on the schedule on the surface seem a bit illogical, starting late after the term begins and ending early, with no events in August, one in December, and three in September, but 7 in October and April and 11 events in March. Similarly, dates within months are not evenly spread out such as a weekly meeting. Some will be a week or more apart, but other events are a day or two apart or even the same day. Amanda makes the logic clear. “Our members are high achieving students who get really packed. It takes a while for the term to get started, and they’re focused on getting used to their professors, schedule, classes, and books. Once the school year is going, we start events, but we prioritize studying and try to avoid exam weeks. As well, we try to change up the night of the week that events are offered for our members, so for we’re not forever excluding someone who has a class or other commitment on Tuesday evenings. We also try to have some things for weekends – some of our students prefer to hit the books during the week.” On top of all that, the schedule is built around executive board member availability, or whoever is hosting a particular event. Added together, all these factors make for an erratic schedule, but one that’s better suited to their chapter.
How did they do so many events in a COVID-19 pandemic? All the events were virtual; with two exceptions. The spring trash clean-up and end-of-semester social were both in person but socially distanced. I wanted to know how they pulled off a baking night virtually. Amanda smiled. “We sent a recipe out via email ahead of time. During the event, we got together on Zoom and made the recipe together. It was kind of a contest to see who could make the cutest thing.” What recipe did they pick? Vanilla cupcakes. There was a bit of wiggle room if someone wanted to make a different flavor.
Their events are roughly grouped into three types. Social events where members can recharge and connect, make friends and build networks. Community service events where they build leadership skills by giving back to their community. And professional development events where members learn information that will help them with their professionalism and career choices.
I asked what events are the most popular. At first, Amanda noted that movie night and baking night are popular choices. But upon further thought, she noted that the members report getting a lot out of the professional development meetings and the community service. They truly like all the types of events.
Amanda’s favorite activity is a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Workshop. As she is MBTI certified, she conducts a small workshop for members as one of their sessions. They restrict the number of attendees, both because there’s a cost of obtaining the tests and because it helps give her quality one-on-one time with attendees. She enjoys it not only because they’re interested but also because it helps them get to know themselves as people.
Who plans all these events? KON members take turns. Some events are easier to plan than others. For example, for the Career Exploration Center (CEC) Job & Internship Workshop all the event coordinator had to do was email the CEC to ask them if they would do a session for KON Omicron Mu members. Other events involve more planning. This is a great low-risk way for members to practice their leadership skills. They are empowered with the authority and responsibility to take an idea that the team agreed on, and personally do what it takes to turn it into an event that they hope others will like and be enriched by.
The most important part of the events to Amanda is intentionality and purpose. She wants to be sure that each event is a step toward their goals and expectations. Each event has valuable takeaways for members. When she came in as chapter adviser that area was a bit weak for Omicron Mu, but Amanda has been diligent in keeping this focus on purpose in everything they do. The results speak for themselves. Though Omicron Mu was good before, they keep getting better. And they have the event schedule to prove it.