[Fresh] Interview with Campus Activities Team

Sue Ciccone (susan.ciccone@villanova.edu)
Fri, 23 Feb 2007 11:48:20 -0500

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Interview with Kristina Kopach, Assistant Director of Student Development, Programming

Fresh@News:  One of your main responsibilities is to coordinate the Campus Activities Team.  Can you tell me what exactly the Campus Activities Team does?

 Ms. Kopach: The Campus Activities Team, affectionately referred to as CAT, is a student-run programming board. The actual leadership board consists of two professional advisers, two graduate assistants, and 15 undergraduate students. The undergrads lead various committees, such as “Special Events”, “Ideas and Issues”, “Entertainment”, and “Musical Events”, just to name a few. We have about 200-300 students who are part of one of these committees at some point during the year.  The overall program, and these committees, are designed to meet campus-wide programming needs. We hope to provide quality programs, events, and opportunities to meet all of the varying interests of our campus community.

 Fresh@News:  What are some of the upcoming events for this semester?

 Ms. Kopach: Our student committees are working on a number of activities for the rest of the semester.  Our Ideas & Issues Committee just recently brought Paul Rusesabagina to speak on campus. Rusesabagina was the hotel manager that inspired the 2004 internationally recognized film, “Hotel Rwanda”. The event was a huge success and I think students learned a great deal from his story. We also have an ice skating trip to Penn’s Landing scheduled for Feb. 23 and are already busy planning this year’s Novafest, where everyone will join together outside to celebrate the beginning of Spring at Villanova.  It will feature outdoor concerts, fun inflatable games, lots of free food, and an exciting evening concert!

Fresh@News:  I also see advertisements for “Late Nite.”  What is that all about?

 Ms. Kopach:   This actually started because students wanted things to do on campus on the weekends! Many events on campus used to end around 10 p.m. and most everything on campus was closed at this time.  The problem is, of course, that many students aren't ready to go to bed at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night.  So, we started a set of on-campus activities that are available from 10 PM to 2 AM on Friday and Saturday evenings. “Late Nite” is designed to guarantee a social outlet on campus for students on weekends.  All of the programs take place in the Bell-Air Terrace of the Connelly Center and many are FREE! Different student groups sponsor each weekend night so there are events for all tastes. This allows students to meet and interact with a variety of groups on campus, each offering different types of activities and entertainment. Late Nite has lined up a number of programs for the rest of the semester such as:  band performances, a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, contests and DJ dance parties.  To add to the fun, CAT shows its movies for free in the Cinema.

 Fresh@News:  Wow, that is a lot to do on campus. What about off-campus? Do you find that students take advantage of the fact that Villanova is so close to Philadelphia?

 Ms. Kopach:  As close as we are, I think many students go through their four years here and rarely venture off the Main Line. We offer a “Best of Philly” program to help students realize there is life beyond Lancaster Ave. Roughly once a month we offer a trip to Philadelphia. We try to balance more cultural activities like going to a museum or a play with more traditional entertainment like going to a sporting event and going out for a "Philly cheesesteak."   We hope that when students see how much is going on and how easy it is to get into Philadelphia, that they will start to take advantage of these opportunities themselves. Last semester we had a very successful event where we brought students to “College Day on the Parkway.” This event was run by the city itself and open to all of the colleges and universities in the area. This was a chance for all of the local area college students to experience Philly and meet one another. Most museums and exhibits were free to college students on this day and we were able to give students a little taste of all of the great things the city of Philadelphia has to offer.

 Fresh@News:  Well even with all of these opportunities, one of the things we hear from freshmen is there is not enough for them to do on weekends. Tell us more about that.

 Ms. Kopach:   I hear that too, which always amazes me because, as I sometimes reply, "we have a whole calendar of things to do."   

 Fresh@News:   Why do you think they say that?

 Ms. Kopach:  There are a few factors here.  One is that students are now much more responsible for their own time than they were in high school, so if they don't actively make some choices and decisions, they will be sitting around alone.  This in itself is a new experience for some of our students, so in their social life, as well as in their academic life, they have to take more responsibility for how they spend their time.   Also, they have many more hours of unstructured time to fill. Instead of being in high school five days a week, they may have only 15 to 18 hours of class a week.  Although the workload is usually much higher than it was in high school, there certainly is a lot more unstructured time.  Sometimes it takes them awhile to learn how to fill some of that time.

 Fresh@News:    The thing I never understand is this; the students are surrounded by people of their own age, so you would think that they would always enjoy just being with each other. How could they possibly complain about their social lives?

 Ms. Kopach:  That can work both ways.  Remember, they are with other young people on a 24/7 basis anyway. They are already spending a lot of time with their friends, so just getting together with other students isn't something new.  When the weekend rolls around they are looking for something different.

 Fresh@News:   So how do we actually get the students to realize that all of these opportunities exist? How do you promote your events?

 Ms. Kopach:  Actually information overload can be a problem.  We make a lot of effort to get the word out to students about activities on campus.  Unfortunately, there are many campus organizations competing for our students' attention through posters, ads, voice mails and e-mails, so the students sometimes tune it out.  The students have to learn to be more pro-active, to review the options and to do some advance planning. CAT does most of their promoting through sending emails to our listservs, posting our events on the Wildcat Newswire, and fliers in the Residence Halls. Some of our larger events also have their own websites that students can link to from the main University’s website. And of course, they can always check out CAT’s website. The students themselves are actually usually the best form of getting the word out, just by word of mouth. We work with Residence Life quite a bit as well. We inform the Resident Assistants (RAs) of upcoming events and they often turn the event into a program and invite their entire floor to go! This is a great way to not only have fun, but to also build community in the Residence Halls.

 Fresh@News:   And besides just attending these programs and events, can students become involved in the actual planning of them? Can freshmen become members of CAT?

 Ms. Kopach: Absolutely! One of the great things about CAT that you can join at any time during the year! Many clubs and organizations on campus only have open enrollment or their application process at the beginning of the year. That can be difficult because in September many freshmen are overwhelmed with all of the choices available to them or are afraid to become involved because of academic commitments. CAT offers a variety of opportunities throughout the year, with varying levels of time commitment. Freshmen can join any committee at any time and feel comfortable doing so. There are many freshmen already involved and it is common for students to come and go. It is a great way to meet new people, learn valuable leadership skills, understand the behind-the-scenes aspects of programming, and plan some great events for the entire campus to enjoy.

 Fresh@News:   How would they go about becoming involved?

 Ms. Kopach: The best way is to simply stop by the CAT office in 108 Dougherty Hall. It is right across from the Wildcard Office on the main floor. There are always students hanging out in the office that can answer questions or help them to become involved.

 Fresh@News:   Do you have any advice to parents?

 Ms. Kopach: College is a great time for young people, but it does have challenges.  Although we talk a lot about the academic challenges, the social challenges can be every bit as overwhelming. Sometimes students just want to sit and wait for something to come to them, but they need to learn to be a bit more proactive.  Parents can encourage them to explore the many activities that are available to them and to take advantage of them. There are so many opportunities at their fingertips and ways to become involved in the community here at Villanova. Whether just going to a CAT sponsored event or becoming involved in the planning of it, it can be a great way for freshmen to see what is out there and broaden their VU experience. All of our entertainment on campus is student focused.  We ask the students in surveys and focus groups what they want to do.  Then, students design the events for their classmates.  As a parent, the best advice to give a student who has tried some of the activities but can’t seem to find their niche would be to suggest they get involved with the planning of events.  Membership in CAT and most of our groups is open all year round and new faces are always welcome.

Sue Ciccone
Director of Orientation and Assistant for Special Projects
Villanova University
207 Dougherty Hall
800 Lancaster Ave.
Villanova, PA 19085
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