On the Job with Jessica Gile Eaton
Jessica Gile Eaton is the Assistant Director, Student Activities and Leadership, at the Kirby Student Center, University of Minnesota–Duluth.
What are some examples of coalition building between student organizations on your campus?
We emphasize collaboration for all of our student organizations: Many hands make light work (and spread around the resources). Knowing it’s important to model as well, three years ago our program board created a co-sponsorship position, and it’s their job to seek opportunities to support other organizations that may not be as well-funded or experienced in event planning and management. We offer assistance with everything from graphic design for posters to social media publicity to financial resources. Last year we co-sponsored more than 85 events.
What are some of the reoccurring needs and requests you hear coming from different student organizations?
Space, space, and more space. We’re currently only able to offer permanent offices for four major student organizations, and even our conference rooms are pushed to their limit when it comes to reservations between weekly meetings and special events. Our students want areas not just for working together, but for building community among their group and with other groups. It’s hard to accommodate that, but we try to be really creative in using the space we have to meet the needs of the largest number we can.
Besides a student activities fair, how have you educated first-year students about opportunities for involvement?
We have a tabling area we call The Commons that we allow all student organizations to reserve and use. They do fundraisers and recruitment from the tables year-round. Many choose to sell food, like today we had grilled cheese sandwiches, bubble tea, and a bake sale going on. It can definitely make for a quick lunch on the run, if you hit it right. We also have a space called The Garage where organizations can do interactive programming to raise awareness of a cause or upcoming event.
Student organizations often come and go. What are the oldest and the newest student organizations on your campus and what trends in student organization types have you seen?
Our student body tends to be very outdoorsy, so one of our oldest organizations, Wuda Wooch!, is a group of folks who go on outdoor adventures together. (Don’t ask about the name, it’s a secret.) Newer orgs on campus seem to center on more specific interests. We don’t see “Tabletop Game Club,” for example, but we see “Settlers of Catan Club” and “Dungeons & Dragons Club.” Students know what they like, and they want to meet others who are similarly focused. My favorite from this spring’s registration is the College Complainers Club. Their plan is to get together once a week to complain about a specific, pre-named topic about college, no solutions allowed. Seems like pretty good preparation for adult life to me!