By Luna Erica
In the first article of this short series, we discussed the general technicalities of the different boards and their elections. In this second half, we hear the boards’ stories about motivation, skills, and social life during their board years. Six members of current big boards have shared their experiences to be broadcast in this article. Our aim: to delve deeper into the question as to what would make a good big board candidate, and give anyone interested in running for a position an idea of what to expect.
When it comes to motivation, the boards make one thing very clear from the start: If you only want to be on a big board because it would smash your CV into shape, you had probably better not do it. Craig and Tallie (HAC) spell out how the job takes a lot of effort: “You might become miserable if you’re just doing it for your CV,” they argue. Craig continues: “The job is demanding and it can be frustrating at times. In moments like that, you need to really want to be doing it.”
Luckily, the frustration only comes into play a fraction of the time. What all the boards mentioned as their most valuable element of the year were their fellow board members.
“We really get along, which I think we’re very lucky for,” Mathilde confesses about her boardies. In kind, every single board we interviewed explicitly mentioned that same thing: they feel extremely lucky to have such a close-knit group as a board. One huge appeal to joining a big board, they argue, are the friends you make within the group. Such a support system of friends around you, Tallie says, is something that can make or break a board year. She summarizes that sentiment beautifully: “I couldn’t imagine what the year would’ve been like without them.” And so the boards maintain that going into such an intense year with the wrong motivation – such as only doing it for your resume or just because you’re a bit bored – may not do the trick.
That aside, what the interviewees agree on is that when joining a big board, there are two crucial skills. Firstly, you need to know – or be willing to learn – to balance your academics, social life, the board and, very importantly, me-time. Sofie and Ariel (AAC) both agree that prioritizing yourself over any of the other things you have to do is important, and argue that it is one of the more challenging aspects of juggling all these different activities: which of those classic UCR fish do you allow to drown on which day?
The second skill is one that may not seem like a skill at first: the willingness to go out of your way to help people. “You have to be able to draw energy from the results you’re getting,” Sofie says. As a Student Advisor, she often speaks to people who have a problem with their academics. The social skills to be able to work with people who are in distress come in handy in such a situation.
Of course, those two critical board skills are ones you can improve on during your year; you really do not need to be an expert in the beginning. “I didn’t know what a calendar was before I started,” Sofie laughs. Additionally, you pick up on and improve other skills. When asked about individual improvement, the board members gave diverse answers: “I feel like I worry less about public speaking,” Charlotte (RASA) says, complemented by Mathilde: “I can so much better work with people, especially people who have different visions and points of view. I’m also much better at managing time and prioritizing, which is super useful.” Finally, she adds that the board year has made her “confident that [she] can learn anything.” This way, Mathilde fixed an actual hole in the wall quite recently. She had never done it before, but with the support of her boardies and the power of the Internet, she knew it would be a simple task. After telling us the full story of the hole in the wall, she adds, “I really like this idea of knowing how to do things where you don’t just need your brain; the idea of knowing how to do manual labor.”
It is not just skills that improve, though – Charlotte argues that you also overcome a certain fear of being in charge. “Before, I was really nervous about being RASA Chair. I wasn’t even scared of the actual position, it was just the title, ‘RASA Chair,’ but now that I’m doing it, it’s okay.” She adds that everything became easier over time: “The scariest for me was committing to the position and saying, ‘Okay, I’m gonna run.’” Though, well, the elections were pretty scary, too, she chuckles: “There was no one running against me and I was a nervous wreck!”
And after the preparations, the board year itself can be really hard at times. Mathilde explains: “We all have our ups and downs, and there are moments during very stressful times at UCR when you feel like the floor is on fire and your bicycle is on fire and you’re on fire – everything is on fire. But I’ve also had moments with my boardies that have been really amazing and funny.” She adds how during a roomcrawl most of the board had drinks and slowly degraded into a mess of giggles, with everyone kissing each other’s necks. The scene, apparently, resulted in hickeys that most of the UCR community would see over the coming few days. “The next day, we had lunch with the owner of the building.” Mathilde grins as she elaborates on how each member of the board had some sort of scarf or turtleneck on to hide their necks during the meeting.
Each board has a story like this: HAC recounts how they bonded whilst carrying huge amounts of furniture for the furniture fund, or how they stripped on-stage (with consent, of course) during the Battle of the Boards in Introweek; Ariel recalls how during her AAC hazing, she was also hazing the new RASA board members (of which she had been part the year before), leading to a drunken batch of disorder. But it is not all drinks and stripping, of course, and there are always board members who take it a little easier than that. Charlotte, for a few more wholesome examples, explains:
“As RASA our goal was to attend one event from each society – which is not only super fun, but can sometimes land us in some pretty weird situations as well. Eva and Carlijn both accidentally (and separately) drank paint water during Alcoholic Artists, and we somehow won the Cognition pubquiz.” She continues: “Two RASA Board members participated in a UCRadio podcast; the whole board listened to Dr. Jorge ramble on about some philosopher; and Aditi read a whole Wikipedia page about Bach during the classical recital.” And, she divulges, that is not to mention the Elliott parties…
Finally, though the thought of committing to an entire board year can be scary at times, and though they emphasize you will have to be stricter toward other students than you may sometimes want to be, the current boardies do accentuate how much fun they have had. Craig, for instance, talks about organizing the furniture fund – one of the first tasks the HAC board did together: “It really makes me happy to see all these students from the middle of nowhere come in and be able to spend their first night on at least a mattress, and then watch them come back the next day for a bed and a couch.” He adds that he loved how “they were still so polite” in the beginning. Most importantly, the interviewees express how the work was infinitely rewarding: “You’re setting up the opportunity for people to settle in and feel confident here.”
Overall, the boards agree that a board year is not for everyone. Still, they do make it very clear that with the right motivation and the right attitude, you can make it to be right for you. Ariel summarizes that you should just not do it “when you are already struggling to keep your head above water,” because being on a board takes up a lot of time. But, she adds, the chance to help people and have fun doing it makes it totally worth the while. Even if you end up spending all your free time among the other big boards in the Elliott Mensa…
Luna Erica, Class of 2020, is a Literature, Linguistics, and Rhetorics major from Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
Image credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMGuTy7jNMY