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Cultural Engagement at SA

August 28, 2017

When you think of Student Activities, you may associate a few different words with our name. One could be “fun”, which is fitting; with 80+ events each school year (including concerts, movie nights, game nights and more), we strive to consistently provide good times for every student. You could also associate “diverse”, simply because of how many different events we put on each year. We hope that you associate “recognizable”, as we want all our events to be uniform in their standards of excellence. Amidst all the words one may think of, one important word that we always want to be associated with is “growth”.

Looking back on the past 25 years of Student Activities, growth is very apparent for us. Take Coffeehouse, for example – the show began in the old Schilling Center (which most of you probably don’t remember). It then moved to the Vines Center, but it was sideways so that only one side of the seats could see the stage. Today, the entire Vines Center tunes in to Coffeehouse each semester – 8,000+ students, to be precise. Coffeehouse is one of many examples of the growth in our department over the years. With the growth we’ve had and are so proud of, we strive to go further each year.

The past couple years, we’ve focused more on growing in the area of cultural engagement. It’s actually one of our four values – among loving others, teamwork and professionalism, cultural engagement is one of the most important parts of our mission. Therefore, we’ve been spending time over the past few years thinking through what cultural engagement means and how to put it into action. Among leading workshops so that our staff is informed on how to engage in culture, another way we want to challenge thinking is through discussing what we choose to engage in and why. We want to engage with people, not only through our events and our staff, but also in social media, our blog, our website and our presence in general.

Our Student Activities staff handbook includes this Purpose Statement on the first page:

“[Our] events serve two purposes. First, they provide students numerous opportunities to interact with one another, fostering a stronger sense of community within the student body, and laying the foundation for lasting relationships. Second, students are presented with opportunities to engage a variety of elements that make up the culture surrounding them.”

The second part of the Purpose Statement describes that our goal as a department is to present students with opportunities to engage in culture, and what better way to do that than for SA to engage first? One way we’ve been doing that is by posting about upcoming releases in the entertainment world every Monday so that our blog readers are aware of what’s going on. We’ve also released posts “reviewing” recent shows we’ve watched, music we’ve listened to and movies we’ve seen – all for the sake of discussing what is culturally relevant. At the end of each post, we give a disclaimer saying that we’re not explicitly promoting the content we write about – instead, we’re seeking to engage in culture and discuss our thoughts on what’s happening. In an age where you’re constantly inundated with entertainment that you’re forced to form opinions on, our posts are a way for us to be right there with you, figuring it out as well.

As we go into the school year, we want to continue this growth on a personal level. We’ll continue posting amateur entertainment previews/reviews on our blog and our social media (amateur because we are not critics or professionals), as well as putting on events that propel us to think critically. We also will continue handing out free cups of joe, so come grab one and talk to us about your thoughts on what’s happening around us in culture! We always want to hear from you.