Athenaeum aids student group legacies

The group also helps student organizations with their leadership.

From left, Principal of Athenaeum Group David Ly consults with Pre-Med American Medical Student Association President Holly Bui along with TEDxUMN director Dustin Huibregtse on Thursday at Coffman Union.

Anthony Kwan

From left, Principal of Athenaeum Group David Ly consults with Pre-Med American Medical Student Association President Holly Bui along with TEDxUMN director Dustin Huibregtse on Thursday at Coffman Union.

by Molly Novak


TEDxUMN members want their group to exist on campus for a long time, but founders are worried the organization will fall apart when they leave the University of Minnesota.

It’s a common issue for student groups on campus, as membership is inherently a revolving door of students who aren’t on campus more than a few years. More than 800 student groups are active at the University, and some are turning to a student-led group to help continue their legacy.

Ten University students founded Athenaeum Group in November 2011. It’s an official student organization, but it collaborates with registered organizations to focus on leadership, transition processes and maintaining a legacy, said David Ly, a supply chain management senior and principal of Athenaeum Group.

The services the group provides are free. Ly said the group has worked formally with six student organizations.

Athenaeum uses three approaches, called “laurels,” to help student organizations. The laurels — consulting, discussion and research — are steps toward helping the student organizations while also allowing different approaches for different groups.

Of the three laurels, consulting works most directly with specific student organizations, said management information systems and finance sophomore Derek Krouch, who works on Athenaeum’s consulting division.

The laurel tries to “create processes that don’t waste time,” he said. “We focus on things that are most important.”

Working with TEDxUMN this semester, the Athenaeum team has used the consulting laurel to confront the problem of how to ensure growth of the organization over the coming years.

 “The big problem that we were facing was that [newly-founded] organizations are like a ticking time bomb,” said Dustin Huibregtse, director of TEDxUMN.

“Once the founder leaves, it’s just a matter of time before the organization starts to derail,” he said.

Athenaeum provided the group tools to target a specific issue, Huibregtse said, like a recommended structure for a smooth transition process.

The consulting team doesn’t just focus on legacies, though. The University chapter of the Pre-Med American Medical Student Association was looking for help marketing and branding, as well as compiling documents on these processes, said biochemistry and psychology senior and Pre-Med AMSA President Holly Bui.

Bui said she reached out to Athenaeum because she had no marketing experience as a pre-med student. She has a one-on-one consulting meeting every week.

Student organizations also have the chance to work with each other in discussions, which are more informal interactions, Huibregtse said. Athenaeum holds discussions on a topic and facilitates a round-robin style conversation.

“It allows me to connect to other student leaders and talk about how they do things so I can bring that back to my group,” Huibregtse.

Athenaeum uses the group discussions to learn from the organizations.

“We … match up student organizations depending on where they can help each other,” Ly said.

Athenaeum also plans to put together white papers for student organizations through its research laurel.

The group identifies trends or gathers information on a specific topic by reading case studies or doing original research. It then will provide the information for all student organizations, Ly said.

Recently, Athenaeum put together a white paper on where fees have been allocated in the past three years. This paper will be published for all student organizations to use.

“I think it’s a great option to see how your group is functioning,” Bui said.

However, the work with Athenaeum wasn’t always the easiest for Bui, as she said “it was hard at first to mesh leadership.”

Once the groups got over that bump, the only thing standing in the way of results was staying on the same timeline.

“They’re a new group and there’s always going to be glitches,” Bui said.

Ly said the group is still growing.

“We are going to make a huge impact on the University next semester,” he said.

Athenaeum will decide in April whether to become an official student organization or partner with a University organization in another way.

“We need to make sure our own legacy continues,” Ly said.