Student Academic Affairs Board turns 20

Student Academic Affairs Board turns 20

What started as an idea scribbled on a napkin by student leaders and their adviser is now cause for pride and celebration at Lewis & Clark. The Student Academic Affairs Board (SAAB) celebrated its 20th anniversary in February, and SAAB representatives, grantees, faculty, and alumni were on hand to applaud the board’s past accomplishments and help kick off plans for its future.

At the forefront of these plans is a five-year fundraising campaign designed to augment SAAB’s annual budget.

“Student fees currently fund SAAB grants,” says Michael Ford, associate vice president for campus life. “But there is a need, over time, for an additional funding source. That’s what our new endowment drive is all about.”

A student-run organization, SAAB administers a tutoring program and actively represents student interests in academic matters at Lewis & Clark. But the bulk of its budget—$40,000 this academic year—has been dedicated to funding its grant program.

SAAB functions like a minifoundation, with students submitting grant requests for peer review. Since its inception in 1982, SAAB has awarded more than 650 grants to undergraduates for research projects, visiting scholars, performances and artistic displays, and participation in academic conferences.

“This program is unique,” says Ford, one of SAAB’s proud founders who was director of student activities at the organization’s inception. “We haven’t found another school with anything like it. We invented it.”

The way Ford remembers it, the idea for SAAB grew out of a particularly frustrating student senate meeting in 1981. Over coffee the next morning, one of the student senators said, “This isn’t working.”

“Then change it,” Ford replied.

In those days, Lewis & Clark’s student government was structured much like other college student governments, with senators elected from residence halls, whose main charge was governing student activities.

Bob Jones ’82, who was student body president at the time, says that a group of student leaders put together a proposal to completely reorganize the student government into boards and councils, with SAAB as the crown jewel. Jones says foremost in the minds of planners was that “student government wasn’t close enough to academic life. SAAB was a way to focus student government on academic life rather than solely on activities.”

Jones says that in the weeks that followed, the existing senate voted itself out of existence (senators were moved to different positions in the new administration), and students voted to create SAAB. One student representative from each academic department sits on the board, which meets once a week to discuss academic concerns and twice a year to review proposals and award grants.

Both Ford and Jones attribute SAAB’s creation and continued health to the dedication and vision of Lewis & Clark students. “We had a remarkable group of people in place,” Jones says of the founders in 1981. “It was a very fortunate convergence.”

—by Kathleen Holt


A sampling of recent SAAB-funded projects


Research projects

Traveling to Louisiana to interview Zydeco artist Nathan Williams for an ethnomusicology class thesis (fall 2001)
Studying the effects of Westernization on the people of Micronesia and their traditional use of plants in everyday life (fall 2001)
Studying the rapidly growing homeless population in Osaka, Japan (spring 2000)

Visiting scholars

Hosting Tom Langen, a biologist specializing in behavioral ecology, who spoke to an animal behavior class on the social interactions of local birds (spring 2000)
Hosting Gifford Malone, a retired State Department officer and minister counselor in the Foreign Service, who has expertise in Russian foreign policy (fall 2000)
Hosting Mary Keir ’95, a doctoral candidate at the University of California at San Francisco, who presented her HIV research (fall 2000)

Performances and artistic displays

Drawing portraits of people who use Portland’s public transportation system for a senior art project (fall 2001)
Creating a short film about the community and racial issues in northeast Portland (fall 1997)
Hiring professional musicians to play challenging works as part of a recital for seniors studying orchestral conducting (fall 1999)
Conference attendance

Attending Super Computing 2001 to present research on how to speed up computers (fall 2001)
Attending Experimental Biology 2002 to present research on how the TPA protein affects long-term memory (fall 2001)