Monday, 8 June 2009

Setting up a Maths Society

When I first started to set up the Maths society I thought it would be a pretty easy thing to do, grab fifteen like minded individuals and make one of them treasurer and another secretary, and there we go a Maths society. But as I was going to find out, things were slightly more complicated than that. Finding fifteen initial members was no problem, I knew enough people on my course to sort that out so that wasn’t going to be too hard but the more everything slowly got set up, the more that sprung up, all of which I was unsure of a definite answer to. Stuff like, “What does a Maths society do?”, “Why make a Maths society?” along with “We’re not just going to meet up and do Maths equations are we?” In all seriousness my answer to these questions initially was quite vague and uncertain.

So to start with I went about answering these questions. As a Maths Society what would we do? I decided that the best way to answer this was to put together an executive committee to help run the society. Now when I was signing up my initial fifteen members the question I kept being asked was, ‘I don’t have to do anything, do I?’, and although they didn’t I wanted people to get involved with the committee and other stuff to do with the society, so I had to try a different approach to find a decent committee. I wanted people from different years other than my own and being that I only knew a few people in other years I decided to seek out the help from the convener of our staff-student committee meetings, Andy White. With Andy’s help I was able to email the entire Maths department to try and find anyone interested in joining the committee and helping out with the society. I received an amazing response and I went about meeting up with people in various areas of the university from the library to the student union to discuss everything we could do and to see if they themselves had any great ideas.

In order to set up a society at Heriot-Watt you need a minimum of a president, a treasurer and a secretary. There is however the option to create more committee positions. So with such interest in positions on the committee I decided to create two further positions that of vice president and social secretary. The vice-presidents job would be to help me out with running the society and the job of the social secretary would be to help with setting up and running of social and networking events. Once I had put together our committee it was time to make our society official, so all that was left to do in terms of setting up the society was to hand in all the forms to the student union and get us affiliated with them. This took about a week, and involved a meeting between the student union and the society’s convener to decide whether we were a suitable society or not. After that it was official, the Math society was founded, all was done, or was it? This was merely the beginning. True, I had accomplished what I had set out to do. The Maths society was created but this is not by a long way the end of things. I now have a great committee and that will be the start of making a great society, but as a society we will, in my opinion, only be the best when we have recruited most of the Math department to our society and have everyone involved in the events that we will hopefully put on in the forthcoming academic year.

Coming back to the questions I didn’t have too much of an idea how to answer when I started out, I’m still not too sure how to answer them, you’ll have to ask me in year, we may end up sitting down and looking at equations, I hope not, but for all I know we could. I hope that we can get everyone in our department to work together in order to develop a more integrated peer supportive learning system along with plenty of social activities and career events.

So that’s how I set up a Math society, with the help of others, there are lots of ways to go about it so here’s some tips I’d like to finish with that I hope will prove useful;

  1. You can’t do it alone, find people to help you out
  2. Have a rough idea what you want the society to be set up for (for example is it for social activities, math based activities, careers or further math education)
  3. Go to your student union and find out as much as possible with regards to how the societies in your university work and how to go about setting them up
  4. Find out what money you can get for your student union and look into applying for grants (IMA offer a grant for Math societies, check it out on the student part of their website)
  5. Get as many people involved as possible, the more the merrier and the more successful you will be
  6. Look at other well established societies and where possible find out how they did it.
  7. Once you are set up, get your committee together and decide how the society is going to be run and what activities and events you are looking to put on.
  8. Finally don’t be scared, just go for it, and aim to be the best society that you can be.

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