McMaster University

Outstanding VSA of the Year

Questions and Answers

What are the purpose and goal(s) of the VSA, and how has the VSA met or exceeded those goals?

One of MVSA’s main goals was to introduce new programs, positions, and processes within the club that contributed to a positive club culture of inclusivity, mentorship, and wellbeing. This year, MVSA introduced the Anh Chi Em (ACE) Mentorship Program to their club, which provides guidance, role models, and a sanctuary for their members. MVSA is the first ever university in all of Canada to adapt this popular ACE program, which originated in the United States, and implement it successfully with over 60 members signing up giving them a total of over 30 mentor-mentee pairings. Through this program, mentors (executive members, upper year MVSA members) are matched with mentees (mainly first year students) and help guide them through university by establishing a close friendship and providing academic support. The Ace Mentorship Program has fostered a tight-knit community of Vietnamese McMaster students through events such as their ACE Mentor Reveal Night, Bob Ross Paint Night, and many off-campus restaurant outings! 

Furthermore, MVSA decided to rebrand themselves through the creation of a new logo and graphics that has a closer connection with the identity of their club and Vietnamese background. Scrapping their old design, which consisted of the text “MVSA” over the geographic shape of the country, they choses to use the Hoa Phoung as the main component of their logo. The Hoa Phoung is the Vietnamese national symbol representing the age of students. Traditionally, it has been planted at almost all school sites in Vietnam, signifying the unity of students, as we all come together to work towards building up their goals and aspirations. Similarly, at MVSA, they empower each other by working together and fostering a sense of community at McMaster.

Address how the VSA was outstanding in the following areas: recruitment, marketing, outreach to campus community, use of resources (financial, etc.), officer training and event planning.

MVSA found 15 different sponsors that were able to offer many benefits to their general members. Through these sponsorships, they raised a record breaking amount of money totalling to over $1500, which doubles the amount of money raised compared to previous years. With this generous funding, MVSA was able to plan events without any financial burden and thus, they were able to maintain and 

increase the quality of their events. 

Their first general meeting of the year had the purpose to establish their presence on campus as a club that provides a safe space for all Vietnamese students–more specifically, first year students who may be leaving their families for the first-time. They made great efforts to reach out to first-year students through the Class of 2024 Facebook page, as well as at ClubsFest and during Frosh Week. As a result, this event reached an all-time record high for attendance, with around 140 attendees, who were able to experience a night of fun games and delicious Vietnamese food while learning more about MVSA as an organization. 

MVSA had an overwhelming number of students signing up to become a Junior Representative due to the great success of their first general meeting. In response, MVSA revamped the application process greatly to make it more comfortable and inclusive. There were informal check-in stations with executives in between the interview stations to build personal connections with the applicants. Additionally, MVSA personally outreached to every single applicant with customized emails, regardless of acceptance or rejection. They had over 40 applicants and were only able to accept 12. Each email was written by an executive who had the opportunity to interact with the applicant and thanked them for their time, spoke about their strengths, and encouraged them to apply for other positions that they thought suited their personalities.Thus, they retained many of these applicants through their cultural performance team or through the ACE program. 

How did the VSA work together? How did you maximize strengths and overcome weaknesses? How did the group work to establish responsibility and accountability among its members?

In order to strengthen and build their team relationships, for the first time, MVSA had a Junior Representative Retreat at the beginning of the semester. Past MVSA alumni gave their testimonies and how MVSA and/or VSA in general has impacted their lives, with the hopes of inspiring their new members. This retreat was an event that allowed for not only the Junior Representatives to feel more comfortable, but for Senior members to strengthen their past relationships, thus ensuring the complete trust that they had in each other for the rest of the year. Despite having roles, MVSA has an unorthodox team dynamic in which anyone could fill in someone else’s role if needed. Dismantling the notion of any hierarchy within their club, every single member of MVSA is equal to one another. As students, we all struggle with the concept of time- management. It is without a doubt that members will be unable to fulfill their tasks due to an overwhelming amount of assignments, presentations, or midterms. Instead of expecting their members to complete their MVSA tasks on top of their busy schedule, MVSA encourages the constant communication between their members. 

Each member has complete trust in one another to help pick up their slack when needed, without the fear of judgement. MVSA members may not be entirely confident in their own strengths, but what they are confident in is the support of their fellow executives; they all have weaknesses that can be balanced by the strengths of their team. 

Furthermore, MVSA goes above and beyond as a club by always celebrating the birthdays of every executive member with a birthday card signed by all of the executive members and a birthday cake. This gesture serves as a token of appreciation for every member that also helps build rapport amongst the club members and passion towards the club. 

Provide specific examples of how the student group demonstrated growth and development in the 2019-2020 academic year.

A challenge that MVSA has faced in previous years is the burn-out experienced by multiple executives due to the demands placed on them due to the nature of our events. As a result, executives began growing distant from the club and turnover began increasing. Past executives have expressed that their involvement in MVSA felt more like a job than a fun-filled experience of culture and community. This year, MVSA made it a priority to improve internal relations by emphasizing that any involvement whatsoever is completely voluntary and that any work done related to MVSA should be rooted in passion for the Vietnamese culture and community. Thus, MVSA traditions were not forcibly up-kept, and that any decision that was made regarding an event reflected that of the executives’ desires and needs. Members also made sure to have informal outings from library study dates, to cooking/eating together. 

Despite their focus in improving internal relations within MVSA this year, it can be said that this focus also translated to success at their events and relations with their general members. During this time, MVSA’s events improved tremendously, as their events received a 30-40% increase in attendance consistently throughout the year. They reworked their outreach and recruitment strategies and were able to garner many students to sign up as junior representatives and for their cultural team, ensuring the sustainability of the club for future years. MVSA reached new heights as they established a whole new program that only their VSA has accomplished in all of Canada. MVSA’s hard work was widely recognized by their communities, with their External Vice President, Paul Tran, receiving the Executive of the Year award and their Co-Presidents, Andy Phan and Will Doan Nguyen, receiving the President of the Year award recognized by McMaster University. Finally, due to their cumulative efforts, MVSA was selected as VSA of the year by UVSA Eastern Canada. 

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