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Feb. 23, 2015

Student Alumni Association to be renamed 1964 Society

By Abbey White

The Student Alumni Association is getting a new name at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

Starting in the fall, the campus organization will be known as the 1964 Society.

The change was made Thursday, Feb. 12 after SAA’s members held their final vote. This will mark the second time a name change has occurred in the student group’s near-20-year history at Cleveland State University.

Andrew Dickson, a senior Health Sciences major with a Pre-Med concentration and SAA’s current president, said he feels positive about the change.

“Internally I feel that the name change will create a more cohesive organization that is more understanding of the mission and purpose that we are functioning from,” Dickson said.

Dickson said he hopes the student body’s understanding of what the organization does and how effectively it can recruit new membership will also evolve.

“Students would say, ‘Student Alumni Association? Well I’m only a student, how am I able to join that if I am not an alumni yet?’ The title itself created misconception and that was just one component. I do believe the new name may sound a bit more exciting as well, creating intrigue for curious students to want to find out more,” Dickson said.

The desire to create a clearer perception of what the organization is stems largely from its merger with the Presidential Student Ambassadors (PSA), another campus group.

Getting its start in 2013, the PSA program aimed to improve student etiquette while promoting Cleveland State at various institutional events and gatherings. In contrast, the Student Alumni Association has existed in various forms since around 1995, and has geared itself toward fostering positive relationships between current students and alumni.

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“The purpose of the organization is to make sure the students have a positive campus experience – that they enjoy being students and take pride in being a Viking,” said Kathleen Kulik, SAA advisor and coordinator of Young Alumni Engagement for the Office of Alumni Relations. “But going beyond that, I think the thing that makes SAA unique is that most organizations on campus are focused on the here and now. We’re focused on ‘What does it mean to be a Viking beyond these last four years of college?’”

Despite the age difference between the two groups, both were quite similar in goal and function. In addition, the Student Alumni Association already possessed all of the tools for successful operation, like a constitution, while the Presidential Student Ambassadors, as a newer organization, did not. This made the unification seem like a natural next step to strengthen both bodies.

After the merger, however, the two still appeared to be operating as separate entities despite their new affiliation.

“When explaining the SAA [and] PSA program before, it became difficult to explain to the student body what it meant to be an SAA member and how you move up to becoming a PSA member,” Dickson said. “With this explanation, it appeared as if there was a separation between organizations.”

Both student organizations and the Office of Alumni Relations hope the rebranding that is to come in the following months will “create a more cohesive organization,” according to Dickson.

“Whether a general member or a Presidential Student Ambassador, we are all striving to build a sense of community and camaraderie among the Cleveland State campus and engage ourselves with the community,” Dickson said.

As of now, the Student Alumni Association follows a hierarchical membership scheme where basic participation puts students at the general membership level. There is then a closed application process, during which members can apply to be Presidential Student Ambassadors following their first semester.

The actual re-naming process was simple and was brought to the table as the final part of the constitution revision work at their winter 2015 retreat.

Being a part of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education’s Affiliated Student Advancement Program (CASE ASAP), members of the Student Alumni Association were able to look at other organizations across the nation doing similar work, and take their branding into consideration when suggesting potential names for the SAA, according to Kulik.

“There were a lot of suggestions on the table and I think a lot of the students felt that the 1964 Society had a nice ring to it, but that it also aligned more closely with the level of leaders they’re trying to bring into the organization,” Kulik said.

Other names considered by current membership were the Student Alumni Association, the Student Alumni Council, the Student Alumni Ambassadors and the Green and White Society.

Ultimately, for those directly involved with the student organization like Dickson and Kulik, the name change seems to bring with it the hope for strengthened internal ties and a clearer identity for both its members and the campus community.

“All of our members are equally valuable and what they bring to the organization is priceless,” Dickson said. “With a single title, my hope is that our members will feel a sense of belonging and identity to the organization.”