Posted November 3, 2015 by Missy Burgess 

Do We Overprogram?

The first six weeks are the most important in a college student’s first year. We all say it. We base our programming models on it. This is the time when students build (or do not build) their connections with campus, roommates, friends, and faculty/staff, and develop the habits that typically carry through for the rest of the year.

At the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh this year, those first six weeks took us from Welcome Week through Homecoming Week. In those two weeks alone, there was at least one–some days up to four–event planned every day by my staff or students we directly advise. In the weeks in between, we held an event at an average of three nights per week, plus at least one major event every weekend. These events include our annual Student Diversity and Leadership Conference, our Community Dragonboat Festival and Races, and Sorority Recruitment, just to name a few.

When you add in a few rain-ins of major events, a challenging article by the student newspaper, and a few other significant incidents, an optimist would say that we have provided countless opportunities for our new students and leadership opportunities for the event planners, but the realist could honestly and easily say we’re tired.

Having experienced and enjoyed–some might say survived–those first six weeks and taken my pre-planned weekend away immediately after, I have been reflecting back on what was and wondering, do we overprogram?

Campfire Program at University of Wisconsin-OshkoshAll of our events this year drew the expected attendance or more. Our students were exposed to a large variety of opportunities to learn and grow, many of whom I saw rise to new and unexpected challenges. We planned with great intentionality over the summer and pushed through a gauntlet of program execution to many positive reviews.

This means the events were productive and there’s no reason to discontinue them, right? As I look around, though, I realize that we are not the only ones programming on campus. Our colleagues in residence life have their own six week plan, athletics rolled out a new marketing plan to attract students to fall events, our multicultural programs are had several major speakers…and the list goes on.

I have begun to wonder, is it necessary to have one or multiple events every night for students to participate in? Or, are we perpetuating the reports of the lack of free play time in childrens’ lives these days? Are we allowing our students the space to not only enjoy college, but the time to develop the life-long friendships and memorable experiences?

My favorite event of Welcome Week this year happened to be one of the smallest. We had some live music playing outside near a fire pit on campus and offered s’mores, snacks, and just a place for students to hang out and talk. It seemed relaxing, calm, and meaningful.

I’m hoping it’s not just that I am no longer as young as I once was, or that I definitely have some introverted tendencies, but the conclusions of my reflections lead me to believe that we may need to intentionally plan a few more “free” days into our first six weeks. Let’s allow our students a little space and see what happens.


Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Missy Burgess

Missy Burgess is the Associate Director for Student Involvement at University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh.

Missy supervises student leadership and involvement staff in the Reeve Memorial Union, including volunteer service, student organizations and emerging programs, Reeve Union Board, leadership, diversity and inclusion, and greek life. She holds a bachelor’s from Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville, a master’s from Kansas State University, and a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of North Dakota.


Well said Missy. I do believe we over program frequently. In addition to the classes and the multitude of program offered are the organizational meetings that we often compete with. Variety and opportunity are good so there is choice but when I hear "there is nothing to do on campus." I wonder what campus.
Dave Timmann
Comment posted 11/04/2015 9:53 AM
Note: To post a comment to The Commons, you must login to the ACUI website.
about the commons
The Commons is the online hub to discover new ideas and learn what is going on in the college union and student activities profession.
more ...
about the contributors

Meet the ACUI members who have volunteered to share their knowledge and insights as regular authors in The Commons.

more ...