Vassar Today

Representing a Bustling Student Community

By Corinne Militello '98

Laura Robertson '04 describes her role as president of the Vassar Student Association (VSA) as "head delegator" for students at Vassar. "I'm here to figure out what students want to happen and how that will happen," she said. She tackles this enormous task by working closely with the VSA executive board (consisting of the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and academic executive), by holding office hours for students to approach her about their concerns, and by maintaining good relationships with the campus administrators who may need to address student issues.

Robertson said she has been impressed by the diversity of issues and voices represented by students at Vassar, and by "the huge role that students are asked to play and expected to play in shaping this campus, and how open the administration is to that."

To say that Robertson's days are busy is an understatement. A physics major pursuing a certificate in secondary education (her senior thesis explores gender roles in the high-school physics classroom), she is also an intern in the physics department. A typical day begins with an early morning trip to the gym, then a quantum mechanics class or a stop by Skinner Hall to play the piano before heading off to meet her thesis adviser. After lunch she'll drop by the VSA office to check her email and see if anyone needs help, before rushing to an afternoon class or to intern for the introductory physics lab. After her evening office hours, Robertson said, "I work in the library until midnight or so before heading back to my [Terrace Apartment]." Still, she finds time for play in this hectic schedule: "If it's a Wednesday night, I can always be found at '80s night at the Mug," she revealed.

Robertson first got involved with campus committees during her freshman year, serving on the Freshman Orientation Committee and the Religious and Spiritual Life Committee. Sophomore year she was the treasurer of the Virginia B. Smith Parliamentary Debate Society, president of the Christian Fellowship, and assistant to the VSA treasurer. She then ran for, and was elected, VSA treasurer. She was thrilled. "I ran for every possible elected position from middle school through two years at Vassar and didn't win anything until I won VSA treasurer at the end of my sophomore year," she explained. As treasurer she worked closely with campus organizations and the VSA executive board to ensure fiscal responsibility in divvying up the VSA budget (more than $525,000 annually, plus additional money raised through club fundraising efforts, and interest income from a capital expenditures endowment) among more than 100 student clubs and organizations. "It's real money they're dealing with and real organizational issues," said Ray Parker, associate dean of the college and director of campus activities.

As VSA president, Robertson has two main goals: enhancing community relations and "increasing campus awareness of all that the student government can do for them." Regarding community relations, Robertson said that, while it's important for students to participate actively in campus life, it's also important for them to connect with other local college students, to discuss issues and collaborate on activities and events. Meanwhile, the VSA executive board has been working energetically on a public relations strategy. So far, it has included a "meet and greet" event where students could ask questions about elections and how the VSA council works, as well as the dedication of a central location in the College Center where student organizations and VSA leaders can post information.

"I've learned about how people work together in positive and negative ways, and the best way to work together to create change at Vassar and in the world," Robertson stated. She expects this knowledge will be useful after graduating, especially if pursuing social justice issues, another one of her interests.

Parker added that Laura's leadership style is one of inclusiveness. "Laura is a very excellent student leader," he said. "She seems to have no ego involved in her position so she's able to be as objective as a person can be when it comes to what's best for the students and the college."