The new Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) staff took office May 1, and it has been working to make the transition a smooth one.
ASPSU President Amara Marino said that the first two days were “overwhelming,” but overall, the transition “is actually going really well.”
She and the rest of the staff have spent a lot of time getting to know each other better, as well as cleaning and reorganizing the office.
“It looks better already,” ASPSU Vice President Joe Johnson said, laughing.
Although his desk phone and his computer Internet lines have not yet been hooked up, Johnson has been busy making plans for the first senate meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, May 14.
Johnson sat on the student senate for the last two years, experience that should come in handy as he presides over the new group of senators.
One of the committees that Marino and Johnson are focusing on is the Activities Committee.
The ASPSU constitution stipulates the presence of this committee, which is charged with organizing dances and other events to bring together the PSU community.
According to Marino and Johnson, this committee has not been given much attention in recent years.
“I think it’s important to try to build more of a community here,” Johnson said.
Marino and Johnson have also been working to establish their various campaigns and goals for PSU, including shared governance.
Shared governance is a policy recently passed by the Oregon University System, which requires student input on all-university committees.
This has not yet been fully established at PSU, but on May 1, Marino became a part of the Excom/Cads+ Committee, which consists of the deans and vice provosts from all of the schools within PSU, university President Daniel Bernstine, and Vice President of Finance and Administration Jay Kenton.
Marino is the first student to ever sit on this committee, which deals with the school budget, as well as issues such as recycling and sustainability.
Both Marino and Johnson are excited about this step toward shared governance at PSU.
Marino and Johnson have also been busy coordinating the new executive staff.
Since their first meeting on May 1, Marino and Johnson have been working on establishing their expectations of all staff members.
Marino emphasized that she wants to deal with any conflicts or possible conflicts now, at the outset of their term in office, rather than at some point in the future.
After witnessing the many disagreements and rifts that occurred within last year’s staff, Marino hopes to avoid any similar problems by being upfront about differences through open communication.
She and Johnson are planning to take a management training seminar, so they will have better skills to deal with their staff.
“I bought a lot of books,” Marino said. “And I read them all the time.”
Marino and Johnson were also very clear in their employment agreements that if someone is not meeting the requirements of their specific position, that individual will be terminated.
ASPSU communications director Adam Zavala feels that the transition to the new staff is going well.
Zavala, who was communications director last year under Kristin Wallace, is happy with the people Marino and Johnson chose for their staff.
“There seems to be a common familiarity within the office,” he noted. “Last year, not many people knew each other.”
One way Marino and Johnson hope to strengthen the relationships between members of the staff is through a rewards system they have developed.
At any time, Marino said, someone within the office can nominate anyone else within any branch of ASPSU to be recognized for doing particularly good work.
At the end of each month, the executive staff would also choose a staff member to receive recognition. Marino and Johnson will also select someone to receive the president’s award each month, as well.
All of the recognized individuals will be given a reward, such as a treat to lunch or movie tickets.
Marino emphasized that the prizes will be paid for out of her own pocket.
She does not want the money to come from the ASPSU budget.
While it has only been one week since the new staff took office, there is a general feeling that things are moving smoothly.
“We’re getting started on a pretty good foot,” Zavala said.