University Day is the longest standing tradition at the University of Oregon. On May 17, over 700 students, faculty and community members participated by offering an hour or more of their time to help beautify the UO campus in preparation for commencement ceremonies that will take place June 18.
This year the main projects mostly included spreading mulch around campus and planting flowers, as well as bee-friendly plants — the UO is making a much more concentrated effort to save the bees, according to Wallace.
“It’s thrilling to see students and staff both — and sometimes community members — participating and giving back,” said Jane Brubaker, the landscape designer for Campus Planning and Facilities Management.
The event was put together and executed by students. Rachael Wallace, a senior at UO studying Political Science, is the University Day Coordinator. She is a part of the Emerging Leaders Program through ASUO, which is how she met a friend who told her about the event coordinator internship. She’s been planning University Day since Fall term and tried to put her own spin on it this year.
Each day of the week leading up to Thursday’s campus beautification event, Wallace chose to plan mini-events that modeled UO spirit. Focus was placed on loyalty, enthusiasm and overall dedication to UO students and the well-being of campus.
Wallace said the event was impactful, but also stressful at times.
“It was almost like a huge sigh of relief,” she said about finally being done with the planning process.
Many students who participate have never done any planting or outdoor work before University Day, Brubaker said. She added that it warms her heart to know that this event gives people their first landscaping experience.
“If they plant an area like Hayward Field or the big Oregon sign, they become part of that place, to watch things grow,” she said.
Junior Javan Bennett finished a midterm for his public relations class and decided to volunteer for an hour before his second midterm later that day. He was by himself pulling weeds between Fenton and Allen Hall.
“I just figured that cramming an hour before the test wouldn’t do anything anyway, so I might as well just hang out here in the sun,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day.”
Bennett wasn’t aware the event was happening until he saw some of his friends wearing University Day T-shirts and noticed the tent on campus. He’s from Eugene and grew up around UO, so he said he’s happy to help out and be involved.
The volunteer tent was located on the lawn outside the Collier House, below a rainbow balloon arch and surrounded by hula hoops and staff wearing vibrant event t-shirts.
Students signed up with the staff at the tent and were then assigned to job sites that were scattered around UO.
The projects done by volunteers make a noticeable difference in the beauty of the campus landscape. Brubaker said walking around the day after the event is always amazing. She thinks it helps people notice the work that the UO grounds crew does year round.
“I think sometimes they’re a little invisible,” she said. “You appreciate what they do, but you don’t always see them or know what they do until you go out and try to dig in the soil.”
Sophomore Amelia Hylton had the chance to talk to some of the grounds crew during her hour of work. She said that interacting with them gave her insight on the behind-the-scenes work done at UO.
Hylton is an RA on campus and gets plenty of emails with opportunities to be more involved at UO. She chose to participate in Thursday’s event because she felt like it was especially important to give back and help beautify the place that she will be spending four years of her life.
“Any opportunity to serve campus and make it a better place to be,” said Hylton, “is one I should take.”