| Core Competencies/Skill Sets
In 2010, administrators realized that Albertus Magnus College was quickly becoming a suitcase school. With fewer than 500 students, the college has a resident student population of just more than 200. A majority of residential students were going home or off campus for the weekend. Survey data gathered from residence halls and Commuter Appreciation Day found that a lack of events and programs on the weekends were a main reason students chose to leave campus.
However, some out-of-state students or those without vehicles were left with a campus that was barely alive during the weekend. These students yearned for a more engaging and entertaining weekend on campus. Students went to the Office of Campus Activities with their concerns, and changes were implemented to retain students on campus during the weekend and provide programming options.
The Office of Campus Activities conducted a student satisfaction survey in late 2010. More than 80 percent of students indicated they would participate in Friday evening events. Additional meetings with the Student Government Association revealed that a late-night programming option could work to retain and entertain students. Campus Activities teamed up with the Office of Residential Life and devised a plan to move forward with the new late-night program series to commence when students returned to campus in early 2011.
On the first Friday of the new semester, Albertus@Night debuted with a craft night. Twenty-five students attended the event, which was promising given students had only been back on campus for one day. Albertus@Night continued with the Office of Campus Activities hosting a program ever other Friday night, and the Office of Residential Life showing movies on the opposing Saturday nights. Throughout the semester, 13 programs were offered including six movies, Dominoes & Dominos, Sports College Bowl, “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” game show, scrapbooking night, a Zumba class, and a pool party. Attendance on Friday nights was slow and steady; 142 students went to these events, with an average of 20 students per night. However, the Saturday movie nights struggled.
The academic break provided time to reflect on Albertus@Night. The Offices of Campus Activities and Residential Life re-evaluated the offerings, deciding to eliminate the movie nights and provide more active programs. Additionally, the Student Government Association became more involved, creating a new late-night programs coordinator position charged with the sole task of coordinating and implementing the Albertus@Night series. After working with little funding during the previous semester, the college president granted the Office of Campus Activities a small budget for the program. The late-night programs coordinator created a structured program series based on the new budget for the next academic year to effectively execute the mission of Albertus@Night. An expanded marketing plan was also put in place, including increased social media presence, fliers, and digital signage. To promote events, small novelty items that coincided with the event theme were distributed throughout campus, encouraging students to participate. Additionally, students attending their first Albertus@Night program received a T-shirt and plastic cup with the logo.
The 2011–12 academic year commenced wit an Albertus@Night program—Pajama Jam. The event invited students to be relaxed and wear pajamas; games and pizza were offered throughout the evening. This event saw the highest attendance to date with 175 students, nearly 35 percent of the overall student population. During the first semester, five more programs were offered, including a hoedown, board game night, and a stress-free night. Attendance was consistent, with 532 students attending the events and an average of 89 students per program. Post-program surveys indicated that the increase in marketing and branding of the series as a staple of campus life resulted in the higher attendance.
Change in campus culture
Alcohol use among college students is a constant talking point among higher education professionals. Excessive drinking, or binge drinking, may result in conduct violations as a student’s behavior gets out of control. While small, Albertus Magnus College is not immune to the college drinking culture that leads students to believe alcohol is needed to fit in socially, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Since the implementation of the late-night series, residence life staff noted more students were staying on campus during the weekends. But this was not the only positive effect of the late-night programming; the Office of Student Life reported a decrease in behavioral conduct violations on campus occurring when late-night programs were offered.
The Office of Student Life also reported a sense of conduct violations being down overall. This is somewhat supported by the numbers. In the first semester of Albertus@Night, conduct violations dropped to 21 from 28 the previous semester. However, this number increased to 31 the following semester. This could be a result of more students staying on campus than in previous semesters.
In the 2009–10 academic year, the year preceding Albertus@Night, there were 52 conduct violations; 27 were related to alcohol and occurred on a Friday night. The 2010–11 academic year yielded similar numbers as 49 overall violations were reported, 28 of which involved alcohol and occurred on a Friday evening. However, in the second semester, there were only four alcohol-related incidents on a night when a program was offered; the other 16 violations from that semester occurred the alternate Friday evenings, indicating that students were possibly choosing not to drink or drink as recklessly when other entertainment was scheduled. The first semester of the 2011–12 academic year confirmed these results. Twenty-four alcohol violations were reported on a Friday evening, only four of which occurred on the same evening as an Albertus@Night program.
While the Albertus@Night series is still young and continues to grow, it has made a positive impact on the college. Just a few years ago, most students thought of Albertus Magnus College as a suitcase school. Now, almost half of residential students are attending Albertus@Night, which provides entertainment and an incentive to stay on campus. An unexpected result of the series is its effect on student conduct, with fewer alcohol violations being reported on nights when programming is offered. Albertus@Night will continue to change the Albertus Magnus College campus culture.
Erin Morrell is the assistant dean for campus activities and orientation
at Albertus Magnus College. She has a master’s degree in applied
psychology with a concentration in industrial/organization/personnel
from Fairfield University.
Justin Cirisoli is the interim
resident director and campus activities intern at Albertus Magnus
College. He is currently working on completing his master’s degree in
counselor education with a specialization in student development in
higher education from Central Connecticut State University.