By Samantha Strunk
Director of Print Media, Former Member of Freshman Forum, SGA
I decided to apply for Freshman Forum two-and-a-half hours before the late-August deadline. I submitted my application about 30 minutes later, and so began one of the most influential parts of my freshman year.
Freshman Forum is an Auburn SGA program focused on shaping student leaders in Auburn’s freshman class. Forty-five freshmen are selected for the program through an application and interview process, and those chosen serve as representatives in SGA for the freshman class.
Freshman Forum directors hold mandatory weekly meetings during which they challenge each “Forumer”, as Forum members are often dubbed, to grow as an individual and a leader. The meetings generally promote discussion about how to lead humbly and effectively while also challenging freshmen to open dialogue about issues they identify on campus and inspire resulting action. This teaches freshmen how to dissect problems through conversation and organize the steps that need to be taken in response.
Beyond the weekly meetings, Forumers are also paired with student mentors who hold positions in SGA. Forumers work closely with their mentors throughout the year on SGA projects and operations, and in doing so they gain practical experience in coordinating student involvement.
A room full of 45 driven, observant and opinionated freshmen may sound like an odd social experiment, but being placed in that room was one of the best things that could have happened to me my freshman year.
The Forum curriculum challenged me, but the 44 people experiencing it with me challenged me even more. My Forum friends are sharp and analytical. A diverse group, my Forum class offered perspectives from as close as Montgomery to as far as Kuwait. Each of us brought individual experiences to the table, and Forum provided a solid platform upon which to share them.
My fellow Forumers would see issues I never noticed and offer solutions I’d never considered. They stretched me into being a civic-minded Auburn student, a student with the confidence to speak my mind and the humility to listen to others.
My Forum friends challenged me, but they loved me, too. My Forum friends are caring, kind and, most notably, present.
They were there.
On the days of legendary football victories, they were there. In the 3 a.m. panic the night before exams, they were there. They were there for food runs, jam sessions and late-night games of hangman. When the tears fell, they were there, and they were there when the laughter was unrelentless, too. Their consistency provided a dependable support system during a year of transition, and I was privileged to have the opportunity to grow with them.
Forum isn’t about priming the next batch of SGA members; it’s about teaching students to lead from wherever they find themselves. Some Forumers come back to SGA; others choose to pursue other student involvement; still others choose to focus on their studies, but each Forumer carries the skills they gain from the program wherever they go.
Freshman Forum is a group of freshmen that serves as the voice of the freshman class in SGA. Members will gain applicable, hands-on experience through working with a mentor that is currently serving in SGA. The group also seeks to build a community that challenges and encourages one another to become better leaders during their first year of college.
The Freshman Forum Application can be accessed under the “Forms” section on the Student Government Association (SGA) page of AUInvolve. (You must sign in to AUInvolve in order to see the Forms section). Applications are open now and will close on August 31st at 11:59 p.m.