I went to the ABTS Conference and All I Got was this Stupid Shirt…and a Whole Lot More

I’m not one to break promises, especially those made on trendy social networking sites, so here is my recap of this weekend’s trip to The Ohio State University.

Courtesy of Tom Templeton

For those of you who don’t know, the Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS) is an organization that strives to unite the now twelve schools of the Big Ten, with newly welcomed University of Nebraska — Lincoln included.  Twice a year, they hold a conference to share information, “steal” each other’s good ideas, and network.  This year the trip was hosted at the beautiful OSU campus.

I cannot say enough about how welcoming this group of people was; Wisconsin has not attended one of these conference in some time, and to have us feel right at home immediately was incredibly helpful.   In particular, the students of Ohio State were exceptionally welcoming to their campus, but all schools struck me as engaged and actively trying to network with everyone present.

Nebraska was also welcomed in, and with good reason; their delegation was ambitious, smart and well-rounded.  Gene Smith, Director of Athletics at OSU and the event’s keynote speaker, kindly greeted them with a “welcome to the hood.”  It is worth noting that despite a large amount of rivalries within the conference, there was (almost) no bad blood between schools (Michigan, who was not in attendance, seemed to have made more than its fair share of enemies, however.)

But I digress, for the purpose of these conferences is not to make the Big Ten feel like one big family, although it certainly helps if it does.  The real purpose of the event is to learn about other schools and make lasting alliances with common goals.  For the sake of brevity (because I could ramble for some time about all I learned) here are some very useful things about being involved with the ABTS:

  1. As the largest institution in the state, UW-Madison has sometimes struggled to get assistance from other schools in the UW System.  This is not to say that we are more advanced or have some advantage over the smaller colleges; it is simply saying that we unique challenges.  The city is unique, the administration is unique, and the funding is unique.  But many of the Big Ten Schools share the same problems as us, and the fact that we are so closely aligned academically, financially, and athletically with these schools makes them useful friends in solving our own problems.
  2. By being involved, we can quickly get the backing of hundreds of thousands of students.  In fact, the Wisconsin delegation and the Nebraska delegation quickly got together to discuss the concept of a lobbying conference at the US Capitol in DC.  By the end of the convention, a date was all but set to host a Big Ten on the Hill summit for March of 2011.  By doing this, we can reach roughly nine times as many congressmen with a unified message of investment in higher education.  There is room for expansion of this program, and I hope that it continues to grow.
  3. Unlike United Council, membership in the ABTS only requires two visits a year (or three with the lobbying summit).  This may seem like a bad thing, but in truth, every SGA has its own problems to deal with, and four to six days out of the year isn’t enough to hinder a school’s own work.  It seems to me to be the perfect balance.
  4. There isn’t very much bureaucracy in the ABTS.  In fact, the event was run completely without paid staff.  There are only three positions with the ABTS: Executive Director (which we were lucky enough to appoint none other than our own Carl Fergus to), Assistant Executive Director, and Secretary.  This means that we don’t have to play politics or dance around; we simply get together, make partnerships, and get things going.  It is a streamlined and pragmatic approach to cooperation.

There are many intricacies of the each SGA that I learned this weekend, but I might save those for a different post.  For now, just know that it was the Wisconsin Delegation’s consensus that the trip was well worth it.  In the future, I hope to expand the number of people we bring.

Oh yeah, and I did get a shirt.

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5 Comments on “I went to the ABTS Conference and All I Got was this Stupid Shirt…and a Whole Lot More”

  1. M John Love says:

    Sounds like an interesting event, just out of curiosity how was the delegation chosen?

    • CampusCaucus says:

      The delegation was chosen based on several factors.

      1) ABTS bylaws stipulate only 4 delegates per school (makes it less expensive, and increases inter school conversation)

      2) Myself, Carl Fergus, Tom Templeton, Sam Polstein, and Kyle Woolwich are the only ones with previous Big Ten interaction (officially at least) so we tried to remain consistent. It’s difficult to get work done when everyone is new at every event.

      3) Traditionally, the ABTS is more of a “summit” structure where the top leaders of each school gets together. Traditionally, concerns focus on “Academic affairs” and “Legislative Affairs” so those two leaders seem like a smart combination in addition to overall top leadership (Chair/Vice Chair here) So with the absence of the VC, the CoS made the most sense to fill the last spot.

      So the choice of 3 students previous involved in the Big Ten (Carl, Tom, and Sam) and the top position in ASM (Brandon) was a no-brainer.

      • Brandon W. says:

        Yeah Adam has it right, since I went off of his recommendation of who to send. The conference itself held several breakout sessions, including: 1) Executive Leadership , reserved for top leadership such as Presidents and Chiefs of Staff (yes, almost all other BT schools have a position like this); 2) Funding; 3) Campus Safety; and 4) Legislative Issues. Given this, the people we brought seemed to be the perfect mix. In the future, I would like to bring more, but our delegation size has to remain at four.

  2. M John Love says:

    Great honestly I was just curious, I’d love to hear more about it, the connections you made, I hope you enjoyed yourself! Thanks for the prompt response!

  3. […] For more information on some of the other benefits of being involved with ABTS please visit Chair William’s Blog here. […]


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