Toward the end of the Institute of American Indian Arts’ administrative offices, there’s a tiny cubicle, exceptional only for its décor. Wire sculptures perch atop dividing walls that are papered in old flyers from Culture Club sales and events. In the midst of all this chaos, sits Chad Gasper, the school’s Institutional Advancement officer.
Gasper has been at this school for 13 years and maintains its donor database, recording and acknowledging all gifts made to the school and its museum. In addition to his current position, he has also served as the school’s museum coordinator, as well as in the Human Resources and Finance departments. His original training, however, was in restaurant management, and he holds a degree in hospitality and tourism, having worked at such places as La Casa Sena, the Blue Corn restaurant, The Oar House and Osteria d’ Assisi.
In addition to his office duties, Gasper has, for the past four years, been sponsor to the campus’s most successful and longest running student club””the IAIA Culture Club. Each year this club raises money to fund an annual trip for the students involved and their sponsor has been a large part of their continuing success. Past trips have included New York City, San Francisco, Honolulu and most recently, New Orleans.
He started meeting his future club members when he was called upon to do van runs for the school.
“They crack me up and keep me young””it’s like fighting with little brothers and sisters I never had and glad I never did,” he says with a laugh.
In the beginning, though, there were a lot of negative vibes, even from other staff and faculty members, who were certain that the club would fizzle out and fail to reach its goals. Four years later, it is still up and running and poised to take on the streets of Boston for its next destination.
Gasper says he prefers traveling with young people, as they are more easily talked into doing new things, like the time in San Francisco when he talked the club members into walking all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge and back.
One of the main challenges in sponsoring a club is, in his opinion, motivating students.
“If everyone is motivated, it’s easy that way; people want to do something.”
He claims the club is useful as a student retention tool””“they have something to look forward to in the spring of every year””a trip,” and he points out that most of the former club members have gone on to graduate from IAIA.
A major factor in the club’s success has been its Frito Pie sales, and Gasper does a part in helping out with the fundraising. “I make the chili and no one’s died yet,” he jokes.
He claims his background in the food industry has something to do with the success of the club’s fundraising, as well.
“I’m anal retentive in setting things up in specific ways,” he admits, “and that works. We’re pretty well stocked in items that we need.”
He has some words of advice to those thinking of sponsoring a student club:
“You have to go in with an open mind and be prepared to be the organizer. As club sponsor, you need to help achieve a goal and a majority of that falls on the sponsor.”
In his opinion, the Culture Club is the “first club that’s leaving a footprint in IAIA.” Considering all this club has accomplished and all it has yet to do, one might find themselves sharing that belief.