Branches Program Returns with New Structure
Issue   |   Tue, 10/25/2016 - 23:39

Branches, a social project which went through a trial period last spring, returned with modifications this fall for a year-long pilot. The Social Project Work Group, comprised of students who organized the program, announced the assignments of interested students to their respective “branches” via email over the course of last week.

The branches have been temporarily designated with the names of different colors. Each has one leader, around 50 group members and must plan and organize two campus-wide within the first semester.

Students in the Social Project Work Group have worked closely with the Association of Amherst Students for the program’s implementation. Kyndall Ashe ’18, one of the program’s leaders, said that this year-long pilot will have a new structure to fix issues with last spring’s pilot.

According to an email sent out by the Social Project Work Group, Branches is “a new social opportunity that seeks to engage students from across campus by diversifying nightlife, school-wide events and other social activities at Amherst.”

At the end of the initial Branches trial last spring, Ashe, Siena Koh ’18 and other leaders surveyed participants for feedback on the semester-long pilot program. The survey showed that students thought the branches were too large, lacked sufficient time to plan events and had inadequate attendance from their members. Additionally, students had little excitement about the branches’ names and descriptions, which were predetermined and not chosen by each branch’s members. The leaders also noted that some branches had failed to plan any events.

The new changes to Branches this year are intended to address these issues. There will be six groups instead of five, and each branch’s member s will decide its name and description. Prospective members were also required to attend an info session earlier this year to learn about the program’s expectations, which include regular attendance.

In addition, branches will only have two leaders, one assigned before enrollment and one elected afterwards. The leaders of all the branches are part of a larger leadership committee rather than heading numerous smaller executive boards.
The program organizers hope that after this full-year pilot, the program will require no additional changes and eventually improve the social lives of all students.

“I love our community, and I want people to feel that we have more of a community,” Ashe said, adding that she hopes Branches will create friendships between people of different activities, genders and class years.

Students such as first-year Andrew Floersheimer joined the program with similar hopes. Floersheimer “wanted to meet new people, take advantage of great social opportunity and be a part of a developing program at Amherst,” he said.

Branches leaders met last weekend, and according to Ashe, will host a Halloween party on Friday, Oct. 28 as the pilot’s kickoff event.