Increase in MISA groups brings more funds, diversity

The overarching international group more than doubled its General Assembly in the past year, and received a 60 percent increase in funding as a result.

by Katherine Lymn

The number of student organizations affiliated with the umbrella group Minnesota International Student Association (MISA) has more than doubled to 20 groups since MISA began recruiting other groups last fall, which in return has increased MISAâÄôs funding by $25,000. MISA is a University of Minnesota student group that focuses on connecting international students. With its new affiliates, MISAâÄôs General Assembly (GA) , is made up of groups for certain ethnicities, such as the African Student Association and the Philippine Student Association , as well as groups that provide services to international students in general, such as the Business Association of Multicultural Students and the International Buddy Program . MISA President Gajen Raveendranathan attributed the growth in member groups to the benefits joining the GA provides . MISA supplies its GA groups with grants âÄî usually $500 a semester âÄî and offers âÄúco-event partnershipâÄù which supplies smaller groups with both money and a recognizable associationâÄôs name for events, Raveendranathan, an economics and mathematics junior, said. âÄúMISA provides a lot of financial benefits to its GAâÄôs or affiliates, so that is why we are a part of it,âÄù said Kong Pha , president of the Hmong Minnesota Student Association , which has been a MISA member for a couple of years. Raveendranathan said MISA has funded approximately six groups with a combined $2500 so far this semester. This money comes from MISAâÄôs funding, which increased from $42,000 last academic year to $67,000 this year. MISA Secretary of Public Relations Rich Kurian said groups need to explain how much funding they need and for what reasons in order to apply for grants. Kurian, a biology, society and environment junior, said the MISA board members then vote on whether or not to provide the requested amount of money. âÄúIf itâÄôs too much [money], we donâÄôt give them that much, but weâÄôll give them âĦ whatever they need to have,âÄù Kurian said, adding groupsâÄô requests are usually approved. Lelna Desta , president of the Ethiopian Student Association (ESA), said these grants, as well as other resources MISA offers, persuaded ESA members to make the group a MISA affiliate three weeks ago. âÄúThey fund events and advertise events,âÄù biomedical engineering sophomore Desta said, âÄúand we get to meet new people.âÄù Raveendranathan said GA groups can utilize the ample space and resources in the MISA room on the second floor of Coffman Union for events and meetings. Nevertheless, MISA board members discourage groups who wish to become affiliates just for the funds. âÄúWe need to know that they arenâÄôt just in it for the money,âÄù said MISA Vice President Komail Lakha . Lahka said groups must come to MISA events and show support in order to maintain GA membership. At least one representative of each member group must attend GA meetings, which occur two to three times a semester. These meetings provide a forum for checking in with the groupsâÄô activities as well as offering MISA assistance to any smaller groups in need of help, said finance and communications senior Lakha. âÄúWe like to see what theyâÄôre doing,âÄù Lakha said. Increased ethnic diversity of MISA members is both a cause and effect of more groups joining the GA. Two years ago MISA was a mainly Asian student group, Lakha said. Vietnamese Student Association President Timmy Nguyen said one reason VSA joined MISA this spring was this boost in ethnic diversity. Nguyen, an actuarial science senior, said VSA noticed how open and welcoming MISA was, and he liked it. âÄúThis year, I actually met the president where in the past two, three years I didnâÄôt know anybody that was on [the] board,âÄù Nguyen said. âÄú[We thought] we could have more supporters for our group and at the same time weâÄôd have more friends.âÄù