Kelli Farris talks student organizations, Center for Student Involvement

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Kaylie McLaughlin, assistant news editor: Could you describe your normal day at work?

Kelli Farris, executive director of the Center for Student Involvement: “I spend a lot of time meeting with students and with campus partners as well to kind of talk about current issues happening with students, student organizations, different campus programming things that are coming up and all sorts of those types of things. I do a lot of staff conversations as well. We have a lot of students who come in with questions about things, and so we kind of help answer those on a regular basis, kind of as they are coming and going. Every day is different, as you can imagine, and it kind of just depends on what kind of year it is as to what the big priority thing is for that day. But a lot of students, a lot of meetings.”

McLaughlin: What elements of your career previous to working at K-State do you think best prepared you for being here?

Farris: “My previous experience to K-State was, especially for this role, I spent about five years at Missouri State University as assistant director for co-curricular involvement and then spent about a year at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte as an associate director for student involvement. Both of those two positions worked really closely with student organizations, student organization support, student organization services and programming, leadership development, event planning, program planning for student org leaders, all of those kinds of things. So those two roles for me really helped kind of identify other ways of doing things. With the center being new and being a combination of two offices, we want to create its own new identity.”

McLaughlin: What is the Center for Student Involvement and why was the name changed from the Office of Student Activities and Services?

Farris: “In late spring 2017, central administration kind of decided there would be a new transition of sorts. Part of that came from a need to formalize kind of what is the relationship of student organizations to the university, so in doing that, out came the student organization policy. The center was created as result of that policy being released and it combined both the former Offices of Fraternity/Sorority Life and Student Activities and Services. So those two offices to combined to create the Center for Student Involvement. The reason why they chose the Center for Student Involvement was because, one, it was a singular location as opposed to kind of two former offices. … Student involvement then gives the connotation and the response that we are all things student involvement. … That name really, I think, encompasses where the center is going long term. And so, I think it’s a really good word choice.”

McLaughlin: So you talked a little bit about the goal of the Center for Student Involvement. what is your role in realizing that goal?

Farris: “My primary role is to really help push that goal, that mission forward and help facilitate the staff in making that mission and vision come to life.”

McLaughlin: What role do you play personally in advising Student Governing Association?

Farris: “This year my role is very limited, so for the rest of this current administration’s term, my role is to kind of just be there and observe and see how things are functioning. Starting in the fall with the new administration, I will be stepping in to advise the Privilege Fee Committee and SCTE funding committee …”

McLaughlin: To what extent in the future will you work with individual committees?

Farris: “My role as an advisor is just that. So we’re gonna sit there, support the students. My role is to remain as neutral as possible. I’m not there to influence any students’ decision; I’m not there to give them insider information, give them any rumors, you know, any of that kind of thing that’s gonna sway their decision or sway their opinions on things. My role is to really just be there and support the chairperson for those committees, but then also make sure that the committees are following their statutes, following their own set guidelines, their precedents, answering any university-wide questions they may have about policies at the university level that they may not know.”

McLaughlin: In what ways do you think the CSI might serve as a bridge between SGA and the general student body?

Farris: “It’s really interesting. I’ve had a really good conversation with the Student Engagement Committee specifically within SGA, and there’s some interest in that current group to build and forge a much stronger relationship moving forward. And so as the new administration for SGA comes on, the new student body president and all their officers come on, we will probably have some pretty good conversations about ‘what does this relationship look like’ for the next term. What I would really love … to see is a way for us to engage SGA students in some of our programming and vice versa. … I think we are a natural connector of the two, which is why our office spaces are so close to each other and connected, and so we are going to continue to kind of figure out what does that role look like.”

McLaughlin: What do you wish the student body knew about you and your role in student organizations?

Farris: “I would want students to know that I am super excited to see what’s on their plate and see what they get excited about, see what needs and interests they have. I am someone who works very closely with students and always has an open door policy for students, so if you’re facing something, if you’re struggling with something, if you have a question and you just want to see that someone is going to hear your question out, that my office is open.”

McLaughlin: What has been your favorite part about working at K-State up to this point?

Farris: “I super love the students. So obviously I work in a student life role; I work at a university, I love students. The students at K-State, they are really awesome students, especially the students who are involved in student organizations and involved on campus in one way or another because they want to be there. They are taking time out of their couch time, if you will, to do something more, and whether that be to gain professional experience, whether that be to gain friendships, cultural experience, what have you, I love that the students on this campus are very engaging and they want to be involved in that.”

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My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.