University Day brings community spirit to campus
On the first sunny day after a mid-May week of rain, the area outside the EMU was filled with music, pop-up tents and good vibes. Thursday was University Day, where hundreds of students, faculty and community members worked to beautify the campus. Each spring, University Day is hosted by the Division of Student Life to prep for senior commencement ceremonies and landscape for the summer season.
This year, volunteers met on the Collier Lawn in front of the EMU from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. One hour of work earned each volunteer a free University Day shirt decorated with ducks. According to University Day Committee Chair Erin Petit, the funds for this event come straight from the Division of Student Life.
“My supervisor and team work in the office of Major Student Events, which is in the Division of Student Life,” she explained. “Our budget was $5,000 and we met under it.”
From planting flowers to cleaning up litter, volunteers got their hands dirty. Landscapes near the library, Rec Center and other campus corners were given the special treatment, with weed pulling and resoiling. Additionally, each University Day has a special project, and this year’s project was rock painting. Under the check-in tent, rocks were scattered across a fold out table with a variety of paints. After the event, University Day committee members scattered the decorated rocks around gardens on campus.
To get the word out about the event, there were a few hoops to jump through, Petit said. They began with a grassroots campaign, directly contacting heads of departments to send out emails to their students. Within university groups, there are a few restrictions for event organizers can market.
“So we really pushed emails through major departments, and also tried on Facebook,” Petit added. “We created a Facebook event and shared that event with fraternity and sorority life, students groups, and different departments on campus.”
Petit hopes that University Day will have a long-term effect on campus life. The main goal for today: for students to feel like they made a difference on their own campus.
“I don’t really care about numbers. I don’t care if we have two hundred or a thousand students come out and participate. I just want everyone to feel like they were able to give back to their community in some form. I think that’s my biggest measurement of success today,” Petit said.
University Day committee member Kevin Zumwalt spent his Thursday working bag check at check-in, so that students wouldn’t have to carry around their backpacks while doing outdoor work. Zumwalt had high hopes for the effects of the University Day event, both physically on campus and in terms of community spirit.
“The biggest difference I want to see today is a community mindset,” he said. “I think a lot of times in college it’s easy to get focused on you and your goals and what you’re trying to get done, and that kind of microcosm isn’t always conducive to a [campus] culture. I just want to see people working together and interacting with each other that normally wouldn’t do that.”