Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Over the summer, Mike Elias and Allie Emmerich became the College’s new Student Activities Coordinators. The Daily Gazette sat down with Mike to talk about his role as one of the Student Activities Coordinators for Swarthmore.
Elias, who comes to us from Dickinson College where he was as a Residential Community Director, recently oversaw the Student Activities Fair, which brought some of Philadelphia’s renowned food trucks on campus. He will also be responsible for organizing yearly traditions on campus such as the college’s Halloween party and the Yule Ball.
Daniel Banko: How do you see your role as student activity coordinator?
Mike Elias: First I think it is important that students recognize me and the student activities office as a resource for students. Recently I have been thinking about the yearly traditions like the Activities Fair, Orientation Week, Halloween Party and the Yule Ball. We need to start working with students on the planning process.
One of our goals is to have easily accessible information that we can share with student leaders so they know that they should go talk with us in order to make their events work really well.
I also think of the job as a resource for leadership development; helping students manage their time and work effectively, and thinking about the things involved in the planning process.
Coming up in early October, Allie and I are taking part in a workshop alongside Career Services that will help help students in planning events and budgeting their time in group dynamics. This is just one of the ways I hope the office will help students more easily get together, interact, and have fun!
Daniel Banko: Are you making any changes to the position from last year?
ME: I talked to a lot of students when I got here. I was trying to get a sense of how they saw the office and what my job should be. The thing that I kept hearing was that we need to have a better process that makes planning events easier and more streamlined.
One of the ways I hope to make this happen is through the website. I want to make the website easily navigable and usable even if you have never been on it before. The website is a place where you can reserve an event and it includes a campus calendar for all the activities that are coming up. Knowing that the club information is up to date on the website is vital as well. I want to make the whole process easier for students to plan an event.
I have been approaching the job as if I am starting from scratch. I have been using my prior student activities experience to recreate a system that I know works really well. But I also cannot stress how important student feedback is. At the end of the day, the student is my customer. I want to be a resource for them, so I hope to establish a comfortable enough relationship where students can walk into my office (Parrish 117) and say, ‘Hey Mike, this worked well’ or ‘Hey Mike, this didn’t work out so well. Can you help us figure out how to make it better?’. That’s really the essence of my job and what I strive to work at.
DB: How has your job been so far?
ME: Its been simply awesome! I make it a point to meet as many people as I can in a day. I want people to come in and be comfortable enough to just say ‘Hi’ to me. I love meeting new people and if you walk into my office I am going to sit you down and ask you questions about what you do on campus. It is just going to happen. So far it has been a great mix of learning from students and also collaborating and coming up with new ideas with students.
ME: Next one coming up is the Halloween Party. Once it gets towards the middle of the fall semester, things really start to pick up with the Yule Ball.
There are some other cool events happening before Halloween so stay alert for student activities postings. Maybe some events in Philadelphia so students can get to know the city in some fun ways.
DB: If students wanted to know more, where should they go?
ME: I would love for students to come in and just talk to me. Give me feedback and thoughts! Our job is to make student life here at Swarthmore fun, so my office is always open to you all.
Can we actually get some other concept than Yule Ball this year? It was cool the first time, but come on…
Nope. Apparently it’s a “tradition” now.