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Nicholas Hwang - Spring 2007

Nicholas Hwang

Having executed a fantastic semester in Fall 2006, marked by one of the largest candidate classes to date and the delivery of a broad spectrum of services to various audiences,our Alpha chapter was prepared to march onwards into Spring 2007 on the tracks that had previously been laid down. With a group of vibrant officers, both old and new, and a freshly restructured committee system, the chapter seized the opportunity to continue expanding our projects and breaking new ground. While the chapter certainly exceeded in these respects, it did noticeably falter in others.

Before Spring 2007 began, our Alpha chapter had a great deal of momentum and there seemed little reason to reduce speed. The chapter experienced a good amount of growth in Fall 2006 with the aforementioned extremely successful candidate semester,restructuring of the officer corps, our decision to remove the career fair from our repertoire of projects, as well as the introduction of some novel services to our community. The Spring 2007 officer corps was relatively young; our most experienced officers had either graduated the year before or had left the corps to make room for new and eager Tau Bates. Our experience running the chapter told us to plow forward and ambitiously improve upon our existing infrastructure by both providing upgraded versions of our older services as well as introducing newer ones. Our existing menu of services was impressive, but was made better. Advising sessions were made inter-society to reduce duplication across student clubs. Our internal IT toolkit was slightly upgraded to consolidate existing tools and streamline the way we maintain and improve our website. More of the well-received professional development services were offered compared to previous semesters, with two rounds of mock interviews supplemented by excellent workshops. A renewed focus on inter-societal relations was pursued and inspired us to put on an extraordinarily successful inter-society sports event and to immerse ourselves in the hierarchy of student leadership to an unprecedented degree. An enormous amount of community service was done over the course of the semester and came in all shapes and sizes; we kept most of our traditional services, such as the blood drive, introduced new ones, such as Relay for Life, and researched a large-scale outreach operation involving local elementary and middle schools. We furthered our services to our college by staffing various events intended to both welcome new students and celebrate the greatness of our university. The list goes on.

But undoubtedly the shining star of our semester was the celebration of our 100th anniversary on April 21st, 2007 at HS Lordships by the Berkeley Marina. With the assistance of the entire officer corps, our district directors, and even national executives, an unforgettable evening was put together by our Alumni Relations committee to celebrate the growth and prosperity of our chapter. The banquet drew over a hundred California Alpha alumni and members spanning countless generations of membership and representing all facets of engineering and our nation. Commemorative speeches, photo albums, hand-made props and decorations, nearly forgotten California Alpha antiques and general good cheer marked this amazing gathering, and demonstrated how our chapter, like fine wine, has aged marvelously over the years.

So with these astonishing successes, where did we go wrong? Our error lay in our comfortable assumption that our chapter was capable of anything, and that the tracks that had previously been laid down were not meant to be followed indefinitely. As we progressed through the semester, our once vibrant and eager officer corps slowly became over-worked, busy and exhausted. Despite well-intentioned lighter activities and programs such as a buddy system, little birthday celebrations and interactive officer-exclusive games, the officer corps, under the weight of numerous projects and the expectations of many, did not ground itself well. Officer-officer bonds were weak, enthusiasm was waning, and while we performed our tasks with excellence and professionalism, the excitement and freshness of being in a student society was beginning to disappear. In short, our chapter was ever so close to becoming a methodical machine.

About three-fourths into our semester, we stepped back and realized the dangerous road we were trekking down. An officer meeting was nearly entirely devoted to an internal investigation into what was happening to us and where to steer our chapter. It was quite honestly the most rewarding discussion I have ever led. Our team focused on root causes, determined fundamental principles to follow, and brainstormed ways to improve. The officer corps came to the same conclusion that I had come to: we were biting off way more than we could chew, and it was time to define who and what we as a chapter are trying to serve. Our group of forty-some students was not physically capable of catering to every single one of our target audiences with flying colors, and the simple solution was to scale down, reduce our ambitions and concentrate on our own health as a chapter.

After this meeting, things did change a bit. While we were still busy as ever, signs of stronger camaraderie within our officers appeared and a sense of mission to set things right seemed to pervade the corps. And even though it was too late into our semester to fully act upon this change of heart, it was certainly an inspiring discussion which I hope will impact future generations of officers.

With that said, I do not regret our chapter's experience in Spring 2007. A wake-up call was surely in order, and no group of people can perform flawlessly without a few bumps and bruises. If anything, I believe our over-exertion and ambition have made us stronger, if only because we pushed our limits and have been to the edge and back. I am extremely optimistic for the semester to come and those after it.

Calculate and innovate. That is what we did in the end. Try, try, try, California Alpha!

Important Contributions and New Traditions

  • First Intersociety Sports Night
  • First Fe-chef competition
  • Heavy involvement in EJC to help them streamline their operations
  • Usage of wiki to track project progress and to make meeting agendas
  • First usage of our External Relations committee to facilitate intersociety activities and service events, as well as activities to serve the college
  • First large-scale banquet commemorating the birth of our chapter
  • First corporate-sponsored tour of Lockheed Martin
  • Opening enrollment as an instructor in E98 to the general public