Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Transforming BDSA
In the six-year journey of my life in Purdue, I had the privilege of volunteering for BDSA for 4 years: as a webmaster, twice as a treasurer, as the president. My BDSA activities started during the presidency of my dear friend, Naeemul Islam Rabu. I took the role of treasurer after a great deal of Rabu’s convincing and I am profoundly grateful to him for relying on me and giving me that opportunity. I gained vast experience in managing a student organization like BDSA as a volunteer, financial adviser, and leader. I envisioned a transformed BDSA, where everyone belonged, and here is my story on how I made it happen. 
In 2017, when I was elected as the BDSA president, the association had quite a different focus and vision. BDSA’s attention was mostly focused on holding social events for the married graduate student community. Its active member-base had sharply decreased from the year before. There were no active undergraduate members in the organization at that time. My vision was to change BDSA: making it as an all-inclusive organization, ensuring more participation from the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate/professional members. I was fortunate to have a lot of dynamic and proactive committee members who shared the same vision and actively helped me to achieve the goals that I dreamt of. Babu bhai, Sanjoy bhai, Ferdous, Sanchita, Tridib, Saeed, Rabu, Nayem, Asif – each took active roles as a person-in-charge, organizing many successful events during my presidential term. The executive committee decided that the main thrusts of BDSA should be to organize cultural, academic and sports events instead of only social events. 
From the very first executive committee meeting, I expressed my strong preference for active participation of undergraduates (even possibly as a president or a treasurer) and their enjoyment in their volunteering role in BDSA. I proposed an addendum in BDSA constitution that mandates that at least one undergraduate focused event must be organized every year. We reduced membership fee of BDSA up to 50% for undergraduate students. All the executive committee members maintained personal contact with the undergraduate community and professional community during my tenure. We had game nights and addas on weekends with the undergraduates of BDSA and I also invited them regularly at my place. I met the president-elect Shamya Dey, a freshman who greatly shared my passion for Call of Duty in a game night. With our efforts, undergraduate membership rose to a double-digit number from zero.
We kept in touch with the professional community and made sure that they also had a sense of belonging to BDSA. The executive committee members contacted all professional community members to invite them personally before each of our big events. Our efforts resulted in an unprecedented increase in the number of participants in our programs. Our Bengali New Year event had 125 attendees and the fall BBQ 2017 event had 126 – a two-fold increase over the number of participants of the previous year. 
We strongly believed that the rich Bangladeshi culture should be shared amongst the student body of Purdue. We actively sought collaboration with other Purdue student organizations. We collaborated with Purdue Students Union Board (PSUB) to participate in the Holidays around the World event, with the Asian Students Union Board (ASUB) to participate in the Multicultural Show,  and with Purdue Tagore Society (PUTS) to participate in the Rabindra Jayanti. In the International Mother Language Day 2018 (IMLD), we invited all international student organizations from Purdue. We accommodated all the interested student bodies to participate in the IMLD. We collaborated with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) to celebrate International Women’s Day and organized a symposium by 6 women PhD students from the Bangladeshi community. 
We also believed that West Lafayette could be a melting pot of Bangladeshi culture in the Midwest. Whenever we organized an event, we invited people from the nearby cities to enjoy our hospitality and Bengali culture. We organized the “Bangladeshi Night” with participants and audience from Indianapolis, South Bend, and Chicago. We organized cricket tournament and premiered a movie show- both were enjoyed by Purdue and neighboring student associations. 
We discounted all membership fees of BDSA and gave free T-shirt to all the members, designed by our incredibly talented architect, Shorf Afza. BDSA’s earnings fell due to the discounted membership-fees. But we made up for the lost income by actively fundraising for BDSA. We successfully received funding from Purdue Graduate Student Government GSOGA grant, PGSG Symposium grant and, SOGA grant. We sought to reduce wastage by keeping an efficient inventory storage system. We negotiated with the PGSG to get a permanent locker space at the Grad Center for our storage. We officially participated in the Purdue Day of Giving (PDOG) first time, winning a 1500$ bonus fund. We collected funds for the relief effort of ‘Manush Manusher Jonno’ during the 2017 Bangladeshi Flood. The Professional community generously donated to BDSA. They also treated the entire association with delicious Hilsha fish- a Bangladeshi favorite and expensive delicacy- in our New Year Celebration. At the end of the year, we left a 4700$ budget surplus for the incoming committee.
Volunteering for BDSA has given me an insight into the skills of leadership, motivating people, and time management. These skills also translate well into my academic career. I made meaningful connections and friends and keep in touch with them regularly. I discovered that many people enjoy volunteering but never expect any executive committee posts or recognition for their works. It was quite refreshing to experience the sheer will of people to make the community a better place.  There are many members from undergraduate, graduate, spouses, and professional community to whom I am eternally grateful to make the BDSA events successful, and I cannot name them all here. The bonds that I made in Purdue were the most rewarding part of my volunteering. 
After my presidential tenure, Tridib and Shams has successfully implemented many innovative concepts. Tridib continued many of the events that we introduced in 2017-18 and successfully secured record amount of funding from the Student Fee Allocation Board (SFAB) and SOGA for his break-through ideas. 
I completed my PhD and left Purdue just when Shams became president. But I still browse the BDSA Facebook group to learn about the new events and find joy seeing BDSA thrive. In my heart, there will always be a special place for BDSA. I truly hope that the new leaders of BDSA will continue coming up with innovative ideas and events engaging the community. This will help to carry out the transformation of BDSA towards a more inclusive and dynamic organization.
The author is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

This was my writeup for the BDSA 2020-21 Magazine

Researcher and academician by Trade. Hobbyist webdeveloper, photographer and ametuer musician.


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Sajid Choudhury
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