Skip to main content

All-campus organization, new conference help student leaders build connections, leadership skills

Members of Indiana University's All-University Student Association meet Nov. 10, 2023, following the IU Board of Trustees meeting. Th... Members of Indiana University's All-University Student Association meet Nov. 10, 2023, following the IU Board of Trustees meeting. The student leaders are, from left, Jaideep Kakar of IUPUI; Kyle Seibert, IU student trustee; Emilee Edmonds of IU South Bend; Chelsea Brinda, on screen, of IU Bloomington; Megan Hillier-Geisler of IUPUI; Cicily Porter of IU Northwest; and Andrea Mendez of IU Kokomo. Submitted photo

Emilee Edmonds works to achieve a variety of goals and overcome challenges in her role as student body president at Indiana University South Bend, such as engaging student government members, retaining institutional knowledge and prioritizing continuous involvement.

“Everyone who has ever been a student leader knows it’s difficult,” she said.

Thankfully, Edmonds said, she’s learned she’s not alone and has discovered a supportive community and valuable insights through the All-University Student Association. The organization brings together all nine of IU’s campus student government presidents to exchange information and ideas, collaborate on initiatives, and share thoughts and concerns to university leadership through the student trustee and IU’s vice president for student success.

The All-University Student Association is one helpful mechanism for bringing together student leaders to have conversations about issues important to students. Another is the IU State Leadership Conference, held for the first time April 5 on IU’s Indianapolis campus. It included more than 30 participants from nine IU student governments. Through roundtable discussions and a keynote panel, attendees collaborated on pressing concerns, brainstormed solutions and enhanced collaboration across campuses.

Connected through the association

Edmonds, a senior, was elected as the association’s chair for this school year. While she had some prior knowledge about the association, she has since embraced its value as a resource for student body presidents.

Emilee Edmonds. Submitted photo Emilee Edmonds. Submitted photoThe association conducts a monthly meeting for the campus student body presidents, who also communicate with each other as needed in between meetings. Topics have included rebuilding interest in student government post-pandemic, improving the minimum wage for campus jobs and changing the early start times of some commencement ceremonies, Edmonds said.

Through discussions, Edmonds said, the presidents have learned how common many challenges are across the campuses, which has helped with sharing ideas and solutions. The collaborative nature of the All-University Student Association lends itself to learning best practices, and Edmonds said they are learning to leverage shared efforts and resources for collective benefit.

“Getting to know fellow presidents and exchanging ideas has personally streamlined some of our IU South Bend student government practices, and we are always excited to contribute the same in return,” Edmonds said. “It helps us more efficiently plan and advocate for our constituents.”

The association also meets with IU Vice President for Student Success Julie Payne-Kirchmeier and student trustee Kyle Seibert.

“These connections have worked for us pretty well,” Edmonds said. “When we have concerns, we are able to bring them to Kyle and Julie. They will either give us the answers we need or direct us to the individuals who can.”

Payne-Kirchmeier said she appreciates the connection and engagement she has with student leaders through the All-University Student Association.

“Given my role at IU, staying connected to these critical student leaders from all IU campuses has helped me to better understand broad-based issues, concerns and ideas students have,” Payne-Kirchmeier said. “It truly helps our team create stronger solutions for the full IU student community.”

Seibert has learned the association’s benefits in two capacities, as he was IU Bloomington’s student body president last school year.

“As a student government leader, sometimes those roles can be lonely, so AUSA is a good place to idea share,” Seibert said. “The support and networking are important for their development.”

The association’s relationship with the student trustee gives the student body presidents access to the Board of Trustees and a “seat at the table” to help shape university decisions, Seibert said. Because the trustees often work from a high-level view, input from the association provides a ground-level view, he added.

Mena Morcos, a freshman and a member of the IU Bloomington Student Body Congress, said additional student concerns this school year have included legislation in the Statehouse that could impact diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campuses.

Student government leaders from across Indiana University's locations gathered April 5 on the Indianapolis campus for the inaug... Student government leaders from across Indiana University's locations gathered April 5 on the Indianapolis campus for the inaugural IU State Leadership Conference. Submitted photo

The inaugural IU Student Leadership Conference, for which Morcos was the lead organizer, was a great opportunity for student leaders to meet, share thoughts and ideas, and learn how to navigate Indiana University policies while effectively advocating for students, Morcos said.

Building leadership skills

The idea for the IU State Leadership Conference derived from IU Bloomington’s participation in the Association of Big Ten Students, which is a coalition of student governments from Big Ten Conference schools that meets several times each year.

Mena Morcos. Submitted photo Mena Morcos. Submitted photo“After attending an ABTS conference and observing the benefits our student government gained from interacting with other universities, I was inspired to replicate the model on a smaller scale, exclusively for IU campuses,” Morcos said.

The conference is a platform for student leaders to share ideas and advocate for students, he added. During roundtable discussions on various topics, the students discovered similarities in challenges, shared ideas and built relationships. Seibert moderated a panel featuring Payne-Kirchmeier, IU Indianapolis Chancellor Latha Ramchand and IU Vice President for University Relations Michael Huber, who discussed how to lead in times of conflict. Seibert said students and campus leaders have faced a lot of challenges on the state, national and international levels this year.

“It can be tough being a 20-something leader who does not have experience leading an organization through a hardship,” Seibert said.

Payne-Kirchmeier agreed.

“An event like this inaugural State Leadership Conference can help students make connections, develop a network and generate solutions around shared ideas,” she said. “It gives them a community of leaders to lean on.”

Edmonds said that a formal report to IU South Bend’s student senate emphasized the friendships and professional connections forged by the school’s conference attendees.

“One member even had a chance to learn about master’s programs at other campuses and the student trustee role,” she said. “This conference was vital in shrinking the perceived size of IU and fostering a greater sense of connection.”

A key takeaway from the conference, Morcos said, is that clear, transparent and regular communication is vital, especially during times of conflict. Leaders must also ensure that they are conveying information effectively and listening to the concerns and suggestions of everyone around them.

“Overall, the conference was great; there’s nothing better than meeting in person,” Morcos said. “The most valuable outcome was the connections we started with IU campuses. This is undoubtedly the beginning of something more.”

Kirk Johannesen is a communications consultant in the Office of the Vice President of Communications and Marketing.