Program Council at SMU is the major student-led programming organization on campus and is committed to providing free and fun events for all. Program Council’s goal is to unify and celebrate the SMU student body through fun, innovative programming that aims to enhance the individual experience of students, faculty, and the entire university community. By structuring themselves through committees, PC ensures a place for everyone to belong.
Although I am only halfway through my term as Program Council President (term spans January—December), I feel as though it’s already been a year. It’s been stressful, frustrating, and confusing, but I know that this experience is helping shape me to become a better leader.
I started out the year nervous and unsure of myself. This position has been the biggest leadership role I’ve ever taken on, and I was initially scared of doing a bad job. My main difficulty was understanding what the role of President was in Program Council. In other organizations, the president tends to have the loudest and most important voice in the room, but that has never been the case for Program Council. I have an extremely capable and high achieving executive board that is amazing at what they do. A good leader adapts to the needs of their team whether that means being a motivator, strategist, or comforter. I’m not the kind of leader to micromanage and want to call all the shots, and that’s not the kind of leader Program Council needs either. I want the exec and board members I oversee to have a voice and be able to take ownership for their accomplishments within Program Council.
The spring semester provided a lot of challenges, but I am very proud with what our organization was able to accomplish. Prior to spring break, we put on two amazing new events which had some of the best attendance numbers of this academic year. We had an amazing Sing Song production in the works and we also resolved a lot of organizational issues regarding 24 Hour Musical. It was devastating to cancel some of the most anticipated events of the semester, but I think it helped all of us learn how to be more flexible and prepared for change.
After Spring Break, I faced my first big challenge as president. How can an event planning organization exist while in quarantine? I took a step back and reexamined our purpose as an organization. Program Council exists to unify and celebrate the SMU community through fun and innovative programming. Our purpose is not to put on movie nights, Sing Song, or 24 Hour Musical. We bring fun to students wherever they may be, even if that is away from campus. After a good brainstorming session, we came up with several digital “events” which provided students with opportunities to connect with each other while isolated. These new events presented our organization with obstacles we were not used to facing. It wasn’t easy, but I am so proud of what we were able to do.
Going into the fall, there are a lot of uncertainties. But given the past semester we are better equipped to be innovative and flexible. We will continue to bring fun to SMU, even if it looks a little different. Additionally, I think this experience for all members of program council will be extremely invaluable to them long term. In an interview for a summer internship, I was able to talk about my response to COVID-19 as Program Council President. I ended up being offered the job and I know I will continue to talk about this experience with potential employers. This is why I think student leadership is so important in general. The lessons that I have learned as a leader within student organizations, the Residential Commons system, and Greek life are the ones that have best prepared me to be a world changer. Undoubtedly, student leaders across campus have been tasked with steering their organization and peers through unprecedented challenges, and it is making us better equipped for our futures.
Daniel Heard (’21) is double majoring in Creative Advertising and Marketing major from Dallas, Texas. His Residential Commons affiliation is Crum Commons.