By Rob Carty, ICMA, Director of Career Services and Next Generation Initiatives and Randy Reid, ICMA, Southeast Regional Director
As part of our Next Generation initiatives, ICMA began a student chapter program in 2010 to introduce more students to local government and the management profession and familiarize them with ICMA members, resources, and the Code of Ethics. Time and time again, we hear from recent MPA/MPP graduates and even full members that they discovered the profession when someone came to a class for a guest lecture. With chapters, we’re trying to change that and increase the odds of students, even undergraduates and high school students, learning more about this great career.
Through chapters, we also want to increase connections between ICMA, schools, students, state associations, and managers. Chapters develop their own content. Chapters develop a charter, hold regular meetings, engage guest presenters, and engage with other chapters. Students might explore joint research/presentation opportunities, and attend the ICMA Annual Conference. Chapters also compete with each other! We held our first annual video contest in 2014 with conference scholarships and free chapter dues as prizes.
To ensure better sustainability, to start an ICMA Student Chapter, we ask three things to start: a student leader (often a chapter president), a faculty advisor at the school, and a practitioner advisor (often an ICMA member in a nearby community, usually a CAO or deputy CAO).
Starting in the 2015-16 academic year, ICMA Student Chapters are now being underwritten by ICMA-RC! The current financial agreement is good through the 2017-18 academic year, and will hopefully continue beyond. (The cost for a student chapter was $400, billed annually by ICMA). Thank you, ICMA-RC! The school receives unlimited student membership to all students enrolled in the chapter (they do not also have to pay the $25 student membership fee). They also receive one complimentary academic membership. Some schools have a little trouble raising the funds, especially annually. Some ideas for raising the funds include:
- Raise funds by matching student contributions; the school pays half, the students pay half;
- Raise funds from alumni in the profession, or see if an ICMA member nearby can assist with the fee;
- Request assistance from your state association;
- Chapters have accessed other larger school clubs to “nest” the ICMA chapter, such as within an existing MPA or public service student organization with established resources (and bypass school bureaucracy in creating another student organization);
- Hosting a 5K campus run, in honor of ICMA’s new “Life, Well Run” campaign. A “life, well run,” run!
- Participate in an ICMA student chapter competition, and win one year of free chapter membership.
Some activities chapters engage in include scheduling guest speakers in the profession, host a discussion on a hot topic in governance to get a CAO’s perspective, work on small consulting projects for nearby local governments (a good resume builder, which can also generate chapter funds!), give a presentation to undergraduates or high schools about local government management, submit articles to ICMA for the Knowledge Network, Newsletter or PM Magazine, schedule site visits to local government offices or satellite departments for a tour, host a networking event to either teach networking skills, or facilitate building connections, and even give a presentation at a local council meeting.
Creating an opportunity to learn more about local government management goes a long way to not only attracting and recruiting talent for the profession, it also helps educate a new generation about the importance of the professional management of our communities.