By Meredith Schellin
Despite the wealth of new opportunities for Asbury students to be involved in, many students still do not participate in campus activities due to lack of publicity, divisions among the student body and better offers off-campus.
Junior Katie Pittman, vice president of spiritual life for Asbury Student Congress (ASC), has held several leadership positions under the Spiritual Life Board, such as encounter chair. She feels that opportunities like Worship Him at Midnight (WHAM) and Encounter offer a place where students can meet God in a unique way outside of mandatory chapel services. She said these are two places that intentionally strive to make space for people to set all other things aside to worship.
While events like these are designed to carry out part of the cornerstones of Asbury, Pittman believes that there can be improvements made in order to draw more students. “I think we could improve on publicity and advertisement of these events, especially through word of mouth,” she said.
Though Pittman would like to see more students come to events, she believes that it will take more than advertising to encourage additional involvement. “We want people to come because they want to be there,” she said. “Authenticity is important in everything. I don’t want to falsely represent an event that I don’t believe in. We have to believe that every event is worth going to.”
While programs like WHAM and Encounter are provided to help students grow spiritually, this year, ASC has revived a program designed to enhance school spirit, specifically at sporting events.
The Screaming Eagles, co-chaired by sophomores Alexa Goins and Julia Chin, is a committee designed to bridge the gap between athletes and non-athletes on campus. “We have noticed that the majority of students that attend athletic events are athletes,” Chin said. “We have deduced that non-athletes may feel as if it’s not their place to attend.”
Chin believes that it is not just the divide between athletes and non-athletes that creates a lack in attendance at sporting events. “A lot of times, students do not attend games because they’re unaware of them, or they just do not find them important,” she said.
As this committee gains a fresh start, they will begin implementing new ideas to boost school spirit. “Students always love receiving free stuff,” Chin said. “If you can give them the proper incentive, they will come. Right now, we are planning ways to encourage student involvement at athletic events through different incentives, but we hope one day they will come solely based on their pride for Asbury.”
While spiritual life and athletics make up a large portion of students’ extra-cirricular experience at Asbury, there are also a variety of other events and clubs that students do not attend or get involved in. Paul Stephens, associate dean for student leadership development, has attributed part of this issue to the growth and development of the surrounding area.
Students have the opportunity to leave campus and go to Lexington to attend events, shop and eat. Stephens does feel, however, that planners of campus activities should not feel threatened by the other opportunities students are presented with, but rather face the reality that they have more options.
According to Stephens, it is important that students voice their opinions on events they would like to see happen on campus. “Students should have a part in what happens on campus,” he said. ”They should feel free to bring ideas to the Student Activities Board, their respective class cabinets or the Student Congress Executive Cabinet.”
While students should have the opportunity to help create campus events, planning and advertising these events is not all it takes to generate student participation. “I think we all have plenty of noise in our lives—Facebook alerts, tweets, emails and posters,” said Stephens.
“Word of mouth is key, and gathering a critical mass of students who are excited and spreading the word is the best promotion of all. Deleting email announcements is easy, ignoring the enthusiasm of a peer is next to impossible.”
Regardless of a lack of advertisement or students choosing better offers, Stephens believes one thing: “Being a student at Asbury must continue to be a wonderfully fun experience. Offering the events proven to be a success and developing new and creative ideas are crucial to our success moving forward.”