Are you considering a board year at the SSU Foundation? Here, you can find more information about the five different functions of the board.
The role of the Chairman within the SSU Board can be hard to grasp. The ultimate responsibility for the association and course of the annual programme lies within your hands. It is therefore essential that you visonalise, track and steer the association to the right course of action. In practice this means that you prepare and host the board meetings, you represent the board and/or function as the first point of call to external parties, and you maintain the relationships with supporting parties.
A successful programme is built on the collective effort of the board. It is your responsibility to enable your fellow board members to reach their professional potential, and to ensure mutual effectiveness during the year. Luckily, as you are positioned in a central position, you have the opportunity to positively influence the working and personal environment. You, therefore, keep track of your fellow board members’ responsibilities, performance, well-being and motivations. After all, your performance will be measured by their success, effort and satisfaction.
Being Chairman can be challenging (at first). Introspectively, you need to be a supportive, respected and reliable leader for your fellow board members. You cannot be perceived as such, the first days or weeks you start this board year, and therefore it is a ‘position’ that must be earned. Luckily, due to a regular amount of meetings and responsibilities throughout the year, this process evolves both gradually and organically. On the other hand, you need to represent your board and association on various occasions, be it to participants, to innovative Dutch (partner) firms or to foreign organisations on the study tour. Initially, this might be difficult, but due to regular exposure throughout the year during drinks, talks, preliminary lectures, company visits and more, you will have enough practice to make it perfect. Conclusively, the greater you are as an internal leader for your board, the more there is for you to present with pride.
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As Secretary of the SSU Board, your main tasks are: keeping minutes during the weekly central meetings, making sure all emails are answered as soon as possible and to keep a clear overview of the planning together with the chairman and treasurer. The minutes are necessary so everyone can read what has been said and what has been decided during the meetings, but mostly so everyone can see their to-dos. Besides making sure these minutes are uploaded, you are also the first line of communication to which people reach out to if they have questions, suggestions or other remarks. Your job is to answer all emails and make sure everyone gets all the information they need to make the SSU Programme go as smooth as possible. Also, you form the daily board together with the Chairman and Treasurer. The three of you have to keep a clear overview of what has been done, what still needs to be done and set deadlines for this.
As the Secretary, you learn to keep a clear mind even in times of chaos. When everyone is busy with their own tasks it is your job to combine those tasks into a clear and consistent piece. Furthermore, throughout the year you will come in contact with all kinds of organisations for all kinds of questions. For example, with the University to spread your message among students or with the Bruna to ask for some goodies to fill the goodie bag. These different kinds of organisations require a different approach, it is your job to find out what approach works best for which type of organisation. At first, this is difficult and you might get some snappy replies, but during the year you get a feeling for this and you will learn to get things done quickly and conveniently.
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The Treasurer of the SSU Board is, together with the other members of the executive board, responsible for the daily tasks. While the Externals and Foreigns have a highly specialised focus on their task, you as a treasurer are more engaged in the overall picture. All money-related issues first pass you, before they are confirmed. Your job therefore also involves the making of the budget, which teaches you to work structured and systematic. Your ability to quickly adapt to sudden changes in the budget increases during the year; both for deficits as well as surpluses.
As a treasurer, you should also keep a clear head. In the beginning of the year I sometimes faced some difficulties, because of money-related issues; you must sometimes be able to turn down ideas, because it does not fit the budget. These discussions can be hard, but also helps you developing the skill to sometimes just say ‘no, it is not possible’, which helps you becoming a responsible person. Furthermore, you are responsible for making up invoices, buying the flight tickets and applying for funds and loans. These are investments and applications that sometimes involve thousands of Euros. You will therefore get cautious with payments to really make sure that everything is right: a skill that is also necessary when making large investments as an adult later on in your career.
But what I liked and learned the most is the fact that you as a board develop from a group of fellows that do not know each other very well into a well-oiled machine of friends that are willing to help each other when necessary. I can only recommend you to do a board year at the SSU Foundation.
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As External Relations you are responsible for the collaborations with diverse organisations in the Netherlands. You will focus on the acquisition of new partners and at the same time maintaining relations with previous partners. During acquisition meetings you will learn how the real business world works: how do you negotiate with the Head Officer of a large corporation? And, how do you sell the strengths of the participants? Next to this, you will visit various companies, from multinationals to start-ups that will help you extend your network.
Furthermore, you develop skills such as networking, drawing up contracts, mailing and managing multiple case teams. This may sound like a lot, but don’t you worry, you are not alone in this. Together with your fellow External Relations you can celebrate each big achievement such as meeting the target, visiting an innovative company for the first time and dividing the participants over the cases!
Being External Relations means that you will have your peak moment at the start of the academic year. At first, you start by contacting the partners from last year. Some of them will continue the partnership but some of them will not. This gives you the opportunity to show off your External skills. You will look through different channels for companies that can benefit from the services that the SSU Foundation offers. After the participants are selected and a number of companies have signed the contracts, the next fun part begins: you are in charge of dividing the participants over the cases. This may sound easy, nevertheless, it can be a real puzzle.
When the year goes by, the pressure will increase until the ‘’golden’’ moment when the target is met. But don’t be afraid if it feels like you are left without a job after this moment. You still have the responsibility to manage the case teams and you can help with various tasks for the second part of the programme. Still, you will have more free time. Therefore, you can fill in some relaxing time with your fellow External Relations and get excited for the upcoming study tour!
Hence, every step that you take in the adventure of being External Relations teaches you valuable lessons and wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.
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Foreigns are tour guides meet networkers. They are mainly responsible for the tour part of the programme and although the full board helps, checks and decides on the contents of the tour, it is mainly their task to arrange interesting company visits and fun cultural activities. Networking starts as soon as the location is decided. This means sending out a lot of emails and doing a lot of networking with teachers, alumni and anyone who might have interesting leads for the tour schedule. When first contact is made, it is their task to make sure all appointments are made and that the contents of the visits is in line with participants’ studies and interests. Along with two other board members, they fly out a week before the study tour starts to visit all companies, check all routes—generally, to make sure everything will run smoothly when the participants arrive.
Being a Foreign means having a peak moment just before the trip. The function starts out relatively easy and uneventful, but from January onwards until the tour in April your duties and your stress will gradually increase, peaking at around two weeks before the trip. Be aware: as Foreign Relations you will travel a week ahead of the group and you might miss final exams at the university. Although the university is almost always willing to give courtesy for the trip, it is something that should absolutely be arranged, as Foreign Relations should absolutely travel a week ahead of the group.
Sure, writing your first emails and having your first Skype calls can be a bit frightening. But it’s awesome to see that, gradually, you get better and better at it, eventually evolving into a skilled international networker. You’ll learn other things as well that will absolutely help you in your further career. You can think of meticulous planning (and with that we mean thinking over every single detail of what you want to make happen, and basically every other detail too), resolving unforeseen problems in stressful situations, and bearing huge responsibilities. But huge responsibilities are paired with huge payoffs because you did just arrange something that twenty-eight people will be talking about for years. Arguably the most unbalanced of the board functions, the rollercoaster ride that is Foreign Relations will be one that you won’t easily forget.
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