Will better event planning keep students at Central during weekends?

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BY Evan Pappas

Contributing Writer


Central has been called a suitcase college, with students often retreating to the West Side over the weekends, but data collected by the school shows otherwise.

Scott Drummond, associate director of campus life, said that the notion of Central being a suitcase college is not new.

“For a long time there has been the impression that [students] run away on weekends,” Drummond said. “I went to school here in the ‘70s, and they were talking about it even then.”

Central is conveniently located for many students; much of the state is within a couple hours drive, which makes it easy for students to travel on the weekends.

Bellair Charters and Airporter are both popular methods for students to travel from Ellensburg to the Seattle area. A customer service representative from the bus company said that students make up a good deal of the customers they get in Ellensburg, especially around the holidays.

However, Richard DeShields, associate dean of student success, says that the idea that Central is a suitcase college is untrue, and he has the data to back it up.

“Eighty percent of our students are here three weekends a month,” DeShields said.

According to DeShields, the suitcase campus idea is a false social norm that relates to campus events and marketing, rather than the reality of the situation.

“Everyone thinks Ellensburg is a suitcase campus and that everyone goes home on the weekends,” DeShields said. “When we follow up a little bit more on what that means, what we hear students say is ‘Well, there’s nothing to do.’ There are lots of events that are happening, it may just be …not specifically what those students want to engage in.”

In order to get more students involved, Sarah Swager, dean of student success, has coordinated a group called the Late Night and Weekend Programming Committee. The committee is chaired by Drummond and Andrea Easlick, assistant director of the Central Wellness Center.

“I think one of the things that became apparent to us this year is the marketing of all these events,” Drummond said. “If nobody knows about it, then what’s the point?”

The late night and weekend programming committee aims to change this. They are charged with formalizing an intentional programming series for the fall, so that students know what events are marketed for weekends and late nights.Putting on more engaging events for students is one thing, but Central is still looking for ways to improve its marketing and get the word out to students.

“A lot of people are relying on social media,” Drummond said. “But at Central, we are still at a ‘catching-on’ phase.”

DeShields said he recognizes that it is often more difficult to get students to go to a program alone, and wants to help students spread the events to their friends by word-of-mouth.

“As students share their ideas, they should invite their friends to come with them,” DeShields said. “When they are recommending events or programs, bring out a friend. It helps keep those programs going and sustain them.”