Being a student at a small liberal arts college allows you to interact more easily with people in high positions. Having met with the then-president Alan Ray in his office hours, being a student representative in the Board of Trustees (BOT) Investment (2013) and Student Life (present) committees – I overcame the nervous feeling of talking to people with higher profiles.
The key is to talk to them like a regular person (easier said than done, I know). As I mentioned, I was part of the student life committee where the student government association (SGA) vice president of finance pointed out to me, “There are persons here that have more money than all the students in here combined.” That fact is worth noticing and at first inhibited me from talking because I did not want to say anything dumb, offensive, or irrelevant in front of people with wealth and power.
At one point it felt like the board of trustees have become weary of the list of achievements that Union Board and SGA have accomplished in the past year, they asked the students what they would like the board of trustees would do for them in the future to make more things happen. This made me realize that, he’s right – all we [students] have been doing is listing things in the past while the board of trustees are here to invest on us for the future. It dawned on me that most of what we prepared were to tell the board is to impress, we weren’t interacting together.
One of the trustees asked that this portion be a dialogue. Which got me thinking – these people are indeed people too. They’re not here to interrogate the credibility of student organizations but to foster a collaborative effort to enrich student life. If I was in trustees’ positions, it would be boring for me to have to keep asking all the questions and be bombarded with list after list. If I was a trustee, I would want to be challenged as well – to make things more interesting. And so, I asked the trustees their opinions and even threw in a couple of jokes. This made the entire board room feel less tense and it made me noticeable too.
And so, if ever we meet people than are more famous, richer, or hold a higher position in power, we should approach them the way we would like to be approached. It’s all about relationship building. Ask for their opinions, question it. Compliment them. This works with every high profile person whether it be celebrities or the president of the United States.