Volume 84 | Issue 5
September/October 2016

On the Job – Student Activities

Read the print version [pdf] of this article.

In this edition of On the Job, student activities professionals Becky Boyle Jones, Nikki Williamson, and Patrick Chenault answer:

  • What is one project or innovation you're proud to have helped implement?
  • What is the biggest lesson you've learned working in the profession?
  • Describe a memorable day on the job.

Becky Boyle JonesBecky Boyle Jones
Assistant Director, Activities & Greek Life at Minnesota State University–Moorhead

  • Project/innovation helped implement: I helped start our late-night and weekend programming efforts on campus. Since Dragons After Dark began we have collaborated with departments and programs across campus. We have hosted multiple events in the library, worked with various science programs to host events in our science building and planetarium, done programs with our wellness center, student union, athletic department, and more. The program began in a collaborative team with staff and students from departments throughout student affairs and beyond.
  • Biggest lesson learned: 1. Balance is a choice and it is one that only you can make; and 2. The impact you have on the life of a student or colleague may not be immediately apparent, but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t making a difference each and every day.
  • Memorable day on the job: We have an annual tradition of setting a giant wooden M on fire for each homecoming and accompanying it with fireworks. Six years ago, we had a drizzly day that progressed into a heavy rain about the time the event was set to start. My student coordinators decided to go ahead with the event, and it was a huge success. Hundreds of students came out in the rain to show Dragon Pride and enjoy a fireworks show in what had become a downpour. Nothing can extinguish the fire of a Dragon.

Nikki WilliamsonNikki Williamson
Associate Director for Student Programs at Clemson University

  • Project/innovation helped implement: This summer our student programs team implemented two new initiatives for campus: Summer Series Programming and Expedition Orange. These two programs were intentionally created for students attending summer classes and for first-year students during their first six weeks of school. The Summer Series was the first event series of its kind on campus; prior to this, free events and activities over the summer for those enrolled were not available. It was a great success and will be brought back next summer! We are currently still holding Expedition Orange events and so far they have been a blast! It has been a great chance for our student programs area and activity team to help get students get connected on campus and feel a part of our community.
  • Biggest lesson learned: Too often we work nonstop to put on a great event, but the people behind-the-scenes don’t stop to take a breath and see what they brought to life and accomplished. I find a good way to reflect on what I do is to enjoy something small at each event (maybe it is a scoop of ice cream, riding in bumper cars, taking pictures in a photo booth) and hold on to that memory. Those positive moments with my students and staff continue to drive my passion for student activities and encourage positivity in the work place.
  • Memorable day on the job: I advise a student programming board, Central Spirit, who are the Clemson athletic fanatics and support and organize some of the largest and longest standing traditions on campus. My most memorable moments are working on these traditional events with them and watching the incredible passion, pride, and dedication that they show for each event they plan. My students work so hard to bring the various traditions to life each year that help bring spirit and pride to campus. It is amazing to see the excitement and a true honor to be able to help my students bring those dreams to life. It is a special thing to know we are a part of something that can connect the whole campus, community, and alumni.

Patrick ChenaultPatrick Chenault
Assistant Director, Student Life Center for Student Involvement at the University of Dayton

  • Project/innovation helped implement: One project that stands out to me would be our university's student organization checkpoint process that was recently implemented. This process works two ways: One, it allows our office to assess these checkpoints throughout the year and over the summer to help plan programming and ensure we are communicating needed information and resources to student organizations. Two (and most importantly), it allows students to assess the successes and challenges of their organizations regarding multiple aspects (recruitment, leadership transitions, programming, finances, strategic planning, etc.). The key to the success of this process is that we break it up throughout the year and created a template that allows students to reflect on those aspects that are most pertinent and timely to their individual organization. This means if the student organization only recruits in the spring, then they will not answer any questions about recruitment until that time. If the student organization transitions in fall, then they will be asked in the form to answer questions pertaining to how well and what process(es) they currently incorporate to ensure a proper transition. Our office can then follow up with each organization who struggles with that function or we can send out resources or host topic specific workshops based on how many organizations report their challenges as an organization.
  • Biggest lesson learned: We all love what we do or we would not be in this profession, but leave your work at work. It is important to take time to prioritize the other identities that are important to you. This could be a partner or family, a hobby or passion, or taking long weekend getaways. Prioritize those things that are important to you outside of work as they will make you a better professional.
  • Memorable day on the job: I currently supervise a graduate assistant and her first initiative as a new GA in our office was to oversee our student involvement fair. During our first one-on-one meeting together she told me she had a new idea for the layout (among other things). With this being one of the biggest and highest participated events of the year, I was a little concerned and skeptical about the logistics of her plan. Even though I was hesitant, I thought this would be a good opportunity to see what skill set and planning experience she brings to a role that works primarily with advising student orgs regarding their events and approving registered student organization events.

    The day of the event comes and the company we use to bring and set up tables did not properly set up the tables according to the new layout. There was not enough space in between the tables for people to move behind and in front of their designated table. I was not made aware of this until I came down after a couple meetings to see what she needed. I could tell she was frustrated with the current set-up, so I rolled-up my sleeves (changed my clothes) and began moving over 300 tables to provide better access for the members at each table. Mind you that it is close to noon and about 90°F with a humidity around what felt like the same.

    As I moved all of the tables with some student workers, the event layout came together better than I anticipated. Once the event was under way, we received multiple compliments on the new layout and signage during the event. Many juniors and seniors said this was the best “Up the Orgs.” they have attended. Needless to say, she made a believer out of me that day and I feel confident that next year's event will be even better!

    As a supervisor, it is important to allow your staff members to take risks, try a new approach, or demonstrate their abilities even when something makes you feel cautious or uncertain. It creates opportunity for both people to grow professionally and mutually develop better rapport with one another.