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Warren Envoys receive support for programs they care about

Posted by on Saturday, April 2, 2016 in News.

The Warren Envoys program is intended to encourage Warren students to represent Warren in events across campus, typically events that the students would actively participate in anyways. The emphasis here is on “across campus” programs, as opposed to Warren-funded (or WAM-funded) within-Warren (or within WAM) programs. There are plenty of support opportunities already for this latter class of programs.

Warren Envoys will contribute funds and/or services to events that

  • are open to all campus residents,
  • by any of the multitude of campus organizations, or selected unaffiliated events, and
  • include one or more Warren residents as members of the organizational team.

By virtue of Warren’s contributions, Warren will ideally become a co-sponsor of any such event, whether it occurs in the WaM vicinity or not, and whether or not Warren residents are a majority presence in the organization of the event. Even if Warren residents are not initially involved overtly in organization, we hope that they would become so by bringing Warren support to an event.

Why a Warren Envoys program, particularly when Warren (and Moore) residents, and many outside WaM, approach WaM leadership for co-sponsorship opportunities already? And we grant such co-sponsorship and will continue to do so.

In part its about acknowledging, embracing, and leveraging the reality of student driven programming that is pervasive at Vanderbilt, as well as the wonderful fact that our students organize many of these activities! While numbers of participants at programs are not the whole story of evaluation by a long shot, it nonetheless appears to be the case that these “outside” programs draw more absolute numbers of Warren students than some within-Warren events.

We don’t want Warren to compete with these other Warren-student organized events, or to have the appearance of competing with them. Rather, we want Warren to contribute to their success. By establishing Warren Envoys as a formal program, we hope to message to every Warren resident, particularly those not already plugged into Warren leadership, that Warren appreciates and supports outside-Warren programming, as well as inside-Warren programming, particularly when Warren students are active in the former.

Ideally, Warren Envoys will help create a Warren identity among participants in what would have been non-Warren programs, and increase Warren participation in the program through social networking and increased promotion.

Early in WaM’s life, it is, perhaps, not surprising that we were hyper-focused on building community within Warren and within WaM. Much of this inward focus can, will, and should remain (e.g., Warren e³, Moore’s Coffee and Conversations, Warren Film Series, game nights), but as I have reconnected with my Faculty-member-in-residence roots (i.e., at McGill, old Kissam, “old” North), where a residential faculty member is an ambassador of the entire faculty to the entire residential life of campus (as I defined it anyways), I’m committing more of my time of late to attending events across campus. And guess what I have seen first hand, which I only knew abstractly and didn’t grok before? There are tons of Warren and WaM students doing an extraordinary amount of planning and implementing of programs across this campus, “outside” of WaM. And when I go to their events, I feel good about supporting them!

In addition to Warren resident participation of events I wrote of earlier, over 50 students attended Hidden Dores Miniweek on March 29, with a majority of the speakers being Warren residents, as well as the moderator/organizer; I counted about 10 Warren students (of about 100-150 attendees) at the Climate Connection on March 29, entitled Black Lives Matter and Saving the Planet; and I counted another 14 Warren residents and alums (of almost 100 students) at VSW on April 1.

As a computer scientist, I am inclined to want to understand the dynamics of residential life holistically and beyond the anecdotal. We want to capture both the outward-Warren facing programs by our residents, who view Warren as a place to reenergize, and inward-Warren facing programs that help build a community capable of reenergizing its residents. Some of our residents are, no doubt, primarily outward facing, some primarily inward facing, but all are to varying extents between these.

To help quantitatively characterize the outward-facing programming of Warren students, I’ll ask those who participate in Warren Envoys to give an exact (through swipes) or approximate (through head counting, as I do) number of Warren attendees at these programs — no names, just numbers! Eventually, if we really want to maximize the number of students who are served, we will want to know who participates in outward facing programs, who participates in inward facing programs, and who is falling through the cracks.

Because we are rapidly approaching the end of the year, and our available budget is dwindling, this is likely a program that we won’t start up formally until next year, though I can point to examples where it is already happening at WaM, albeit ad hoc by those who are plugged into WaM leadership. We can do it better. For example, in the past we have, as a matter of policy, not promulgated non-WaM events in our newsletters and over our list serves. I expect the policy to remain the same, but under Warren Envoys, so much more will open up as Warren programming!

Doug Fisher is Faculty Director of Warren College. This post reflects Doug’s opinions and not necessarily those of Vanderbilt University. Thanks to Nick Dressler and Grace Chee for discussing this with me and helping me to refine the ideas.

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