Using a G.O.A.T. Strategy to Reset Your Campus Activities Program

Bill Harcleroad

~Director of Campus Activities & Leadership | SUNY ONEONTA

SUNY Oneonta’s mission is to “nurture a community where students grow intellectually, thrive socially and live purposefully.” Our vision is “to become the exemplar residential community, providing relevant educational experiences in and outside of the classroom.” I have been incredibly fortunate to have inherited and build upon a strong activities program. That, and a strong division of Student Development, not only helped fulfill those statements but, in some ways, helped form how we think of ourselves here at SUNY Oneonta. The cocurricular has always been part of the “Oneonta experience.”

Our history of strong cocurricular engagement helped us to pivot to virtual and hybrid programs when the pandemic hit. We continued to see our “outside the (virtual) classroom” experience as part of what makes Oneonta stand out in the higher ed space. This manifested itself in programming from across the campus but also in significant financial and logistical support from the college itself (and, yes, I know how fortunate that makes me).

Getting the word that we could return to in-person activities for Fall 2021 was certainly exciting news. It also came with apprehension that we might have lost momentum. Could we pick up where we left off? Was the magic gone?

We had several challenges:

  1. Almost all of the students moving onto campus (as we only require first-year and sophomores to live on campus) have no history of attending in-person incredible events sponsored by A/C, the Activities Council.
  2. Many clubs and organizations languished over the last 3 semesters so we would need to over-program to provide as robust a calendar as we have had in the past.
  3. New protocols limiting space usage and types of events.
  4. Overcoming anxiety about being in large(r) groups.
  5. The majority of the Activities Council had never run in-person events.

Using a Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.) strategy helped us to confront these challenges. Having tried and true performers meant that some of our senior student influencers (RAs, OLs) had likely seen them and could recommend them. This also assisted with event production as we had worked with these performers before, leaving little surprise. This strategy, although useful, did not apply to all events. We did not use this strategy for our large fall weekend event, a music series, and movies. Many were G.O.A.T.s. Last year’s Activities Council (A/C) was presented data on all performers they had hosted over the last five years and asked to rank them in various categories to produce a desired program.

Here is how our G.O.A.T. semester looked:

{G.O.A.T.s are designated with an “X“}

OPENING WEEKEND

This was an incredible opportunity to not only connect to our first-year students but also to our sophomores as we had added a “year 2 all about you” to our orientation program which drew approximately 500 sophomores back early.

  • Quad Party with make and take activities X
  • Weekend Movie: F9: The Fast Saga
  • Sailesh the Hypnotist X – to be fair this is something we do every year (except for 2020). NOBODY else can fill a venue on a Friday night like Sailesh can!

Saturday Spectacular:

  1. Color Dance Party
  2. Ben Seidman Magic X – another annual favorite
  3. Outdoor screening of F9: The Fast Saga

MONDAYS

Mondays, in our programming model, almost always have A/C events with every other Monday being a comedian branded as Chuck’s Comedy Club (we host most of these events in the Waterfront of the Charles W. Hunt College Union). Mondays also saw us hosting a monthly up-and-coming music series, the Collective Tour, which was a joint series hosted by different campuses across the country.

  • An Evening with Josh Peck X
  • Ken Nwadike Jr: The Power of Positive Human Interaction X
  • Chuck’s Comedy Club: Chico Bean from Wild ‘n Out X
  • The Great Dubois: The World’s Most Unique Two-Person Circus Show X
  • Chuck’s Comedy Club: Kelly Kellz X
  • CI Collective Tour: Olivia Lunny
  • Mills Distinguished Lecture: Dashka Slater, author of The 57 Bus (our campus common read for 2021)
  • Chuck’s Comedy Club: Eric O’Shea X
  • CI Collective Tour: DoubleCamp
  • Chuck’s Comedy Club: Francisco Ramos X
  • Jeffrey Marsh, Non-binary Actor & Activist X – this was canceled due to, understandable, reluctance of performer to fly as the date got closer.
  • Chuck’s Comedy Club: LeClerc Andre X
  • CI Collective Tour: Lisa Heller

TUESDAYS

We have weekly Tuesday Trivia X. This used to be a team trivia format, but we liked the individual format we used when remote and now offer this as a hybrid program with most people in person and others on Microsoft Teams all playing via Kahoot for gift cards to our campus store.

WEDNESDAYS

Our Poetry Slam Association hosts a slam every other Wednesday and there are often plays and other events happening so A/C fills in the gaps.

  • Red Dragon Rhythms: A Night of Student Voices
  • Random Acts of Poetry Day
  • The Vocal Illusions of Lynn Trefzger X
  • The Evasons Mentalist Duo X
  • Show Up or STFU which is our concert selection process to encourage participation in the decision making.

WEEKENDS

We have at least 2 events each Friday and Saturday night. We show movies at 6:30 & 9 PM and A/C fills in any gaps along with our partners in Residential/Community Life. We also show the movies at 1, 6:30, & 9 PM on Sundays.

  • First Red Day of the semester X – We encourage our entire community to wear Red on Fridays so the first Friday of the semester is a kick-off with giveaways to support that goal. We have different levels of prizes and the more school spirit you show the better prizes you can earn.
  • Casino Night X
  • Meet me on Main – the City of Oneonta created these weekly events where Main Street becomes pedestrian only and entertainment is offered to draw people back downtown. We sponsored the final weekend of the series once classes were back in session.
  • Laser Tag and Giant Games X
  • Caribbean Night
  • Sal Vulcano and Special Guest doing Live Stand-Up Comedy – traditionally our Labor Day weekend event would be a musical concert but we just weren’t ready for that. We did, however, feel that we could have a large-scale comedian with the audience capped at 2000 (50% capacity of arena) seated and masked.
  • Late Night Skate and Laser Tag at Interskate 88 X – BIGGEST ONE EVER!
  • Jonathan Burns Physical Comedy and Contortionist X
  • BINGO X – we have always had a BINGO night but decided, like with Trivia, that we liked some of the changes brought about while  doing it remotely so this was a hybrid version with electronic cards and people meeting in small groups throughout one of our academic building or remote joining us via Teams.
  • Late Night Paint X
  • Archery Tag (and board games) X
  • Disney’s Fantasia under the stars
  • The Little Mermen – this was for Family Weekend which was canceled so the event was as well.
  • Bubble Soccer and Board Games X
  • Fright Fest Trip to Six Flags Great Escape X – MOST ATTENDEES EVER
  • Donna Washington Storyteller: Ghost Stories X
  • Chris Fleming Ghost Hunter
  • Broadway Trip: The Lion King X (we had a trip every semester through fall 2019)
  • Dragons After Dark (series held in Residence Halls on select weekend dates with various themes decided by hall government)

STUDY DAY/STRESS-FREE ZONE

For our big end-of-semester event we used our all-time favorite theme of “Stressed is just Desserts spelled backwards” and featured many of our favorite activities along with favorite desserts.

  • Gingerbread House building with Gingerbread Cookies
  • Jackbox Games with Dessert Bars
  • Paint & Sip with Dessert Bars
  • Make Your Own Stress Balls with Brownies
  • Dragon’s Lair XXL (Video games on big screens) with Pie and Ice Cream
  • Holiday Arts & Crafts with Decorate your own Cupcakes
  • Cartoon Room with Cereal
  • Karaoke with Fresh Fruit and Chocolate Fondue
  • Salon Room with Pudding Bar
  • Oxygen Bar, Architectural Signs, and DIY Zen Gardens with Argo Tea Bar
  • BINGO (until 8) and then Trivia with Fresh baked cookies
  • Bubble Wrap Room with Pound Cake

Here are some numbers which indicate that we achieved many of our goals:

  • 4383 students (83% of enrolled) attended at least one event with the average being a little over 8 events per person. 35,841 total check-ins
  • Average event rating: 4.65 out 5 stars
  • Why attended (could select more than one):
  1. Content appealed to me: 72%
  2. Told it was required: .5%
  3. Nothing else to do: 15%
  4. Attended before: 6%
  5. Told it would be good: 21%
  • This program was worth my time to attend: 94% chose Yes
  • All students pay fees which fund social programs. Was this program a good use of that money?: 95% chose Yes
  • I would attend this event again: 94% chose Yes

 

So, did it work? It’s too early to say for sure, and we continued our other events to experiences strategy as well, but there are many positive signs and it sure felt good to welcome people back to our “IncREDible Events.”

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