Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Noelle Castro - Third Time’s the Charm: Building Institutional Memory and Ensuring Sustainability for the Dominican Student Association


The Dominican Student Association was recently refounded in Spring 2019 after almost 5 years of being defunct. The organization had existed in two previous iterations, from 1993-1999 and again from 2011-2014. Restarting the organization was difficult without having any kind of institutional memory to help guide the revival of the organization, meaning that the entire infrastructure had to be recreated. Acknowledging the fact that the Dominican Student Association is a smaller community compared to some of the larger pan-ethnic organizations that exist within the college, there is always the possibility that the organization could go defunct. Therefore, the focus of this project is finding ways to build institutional memory within the organization and create sustainable structures so that the organization is able to last as long as possible, or if it does become defunct in the future, providing students with the opportunity to relaunch it with the necessary resources and knowledge of previous organizational structures. Through conducting a series of interviews, I was able to get a general sense of the infrastructural issues that the organization faces that could be solved with a transition guide that provides some historical background on the organization. This would allow for key institutional knowledge to be documented and easily accessible for future generations of the organization or if in the future the organization were to go defunct, the organization could be refounded with the necessary knowledge to continue previous traditions and understand how the organization has functioned in the past. In creating this document, the project also sought to create an alumni database to help keep current members of the board connected to previous board members and build a stronger connection with board members and their predecessors. 

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