Uncovering the reason behind Pace’s Student Engagement inconsistency

December 19, 2022

Each semester, students pay hundreds in activity fees, all of which are funneled through student government to organizations to host campus wide events. Even though students are paying for these events, they’re not attending them. Clubs, organizations, and the office of student engagement have been on an endless investigation of the question that has historically led to an empty answer: 

What does it take to increase student involvement, and maintain excitement throughout the academic year?

Jennilee Barayuga waited patiently for her big brand sponsorship with Bartleby, a homework helper designed for college students. She created graphic designs, reached out to campus organizations for help with PR and branding, and promoted the event by word of mouth, and social media. When the day arrived, Jennilee hauled boxes of free merchandise to a reserved classroom, canceled her plans, and waited for a full room of undergraduate students; bustling with excitement and joy.

But she did not get that. Instead, she got four students, belonging to the executive committee of the club she partnered with, and a few passersby curious about the music floating through the basement floor hallway.

Jennilee, along with other students and organizations at Pace have faced the same reality.

Pace University owns 35 student run clubs and organizations on the Pleasantville campus, which are overseen and monitored by the Office of Student Engagement located in the Kessel Student Center. Here, there are a variety of opportunities. Students can launch their own club initiatives and ideas and host their own events right on campus. To establish campus clubs and organizations, the requirement is for 5 students to be active and serve as official executive board members, and 2 campus wide events per semester.

(Out of this office comes the majority of club rules and regulations. SGA is tasked with overseeing and regulating clubs and organizations on campus. Photo credit: Krissy Scott)

A list of all active clubs and organizations at Pace can be found here: https://settersyncplv.pace.edu/organizations

Although much can be said about student opportunities and engagement, it is no doubt that these numbers have been stagnant, or inconsistent in the past year. This has raised concern not only for the people from the office of student engagement but many clubs and organizations that often share the burden and stress of whether their event will receive a good turnout despite the promotions and advertising done throughout campus. 

One major thing to consider is time constraints. It is no secret that college students are pressed for time, or lack the skill to manage it. Maria Lemus, Coordinator of student engagement attributes certain event popularity to time conveniences.

According to the statistics available on Settersync, the three most popular events on the Pleasantville campus for the 2022 spring semester were spring fest, the homecoming bonfire, and midnight breakfast.

Spring fest came in with the highest, boasting a total number of 511 RSVPs checked in at the door. This implies that the overall attendance of the event was potentially higher, considering most attendees may have arrived without submitting an RSVP. The second event with the highest attendance is the homecoming bonfire, with a total number of 450 students rsvp’d. The third highest event is midnight breakfast, with a total number of 272 students RSVP’d.

These statistics also imply that the timing of spring fest was most appropriate in the semester for many students. The event took place shortly after finals, allowing students the opportunity to destress and enjoy the event without the burden of assignments.

Many events occur at late hours, which often inconvenience commuter students. Nighttime programming for events typically occurs at 9 p.m. in the residence halls or in the Kessel Student Center which poses accessibility issues for commuter students.

“I’m trying to focus and get involved with the commuter life population,” said Lemus.

Commuter students make up about 60% of the student population between both campuses, and statistics express another reason for their lack of participation is the time inconvenience for clubs and organizations they want to participate in. Most programming occurs at night when commuter classes end, making them only accessible to residents. This is likely another cause for the inconsistencies in student engagement on the Pleasantville campus

 Lemus also believes providing free food at events gives students more incentive to attend. 

“A very big concern from the president’s office and dean’s office is food insecurity. They’re always thinking of ways to provide students with food,” said Lemus. Settersync also revealed that events with the promise of free food and free stuff received better turnouts.

“If you want these people [students] to approach you, you need to be offering some form of incentive, or free item of some sort,” said Ellisa Leconte, Secretary of Active Minds. Leconte also noticed she received “much higher” student interaction when she had tablings with free items as opposed to not.

“There are certain organizations where they have no one show up to their weekly meetings, but as soon as they offer free things, people show interest,” said Leconte.

“Students pay a lot to go here. So I think even receiving a small token like a picnic blanket or brownies from a brownie bar truck, it reminds them that this is a part of the experience that I’m devoting so much time to,” said Lemus.

Another reason why clubs and organizations do not receive a good turnout simply boils down to discomfort. Some students, like first years, have not adjusted to college and found their community, causing them to refrain from major social events and activities. 

Krish Persaud, an applied psychology major, attributed their lack of student involvement to feelings of “discomfort” and “not having found their community.” It is very likely that other first years share the same sentiment, avoiding social interaction until they’ve fully adjusted to college campus life.

Pace University’s Office of Student Engagement gives its students complete creative control over their organizations and student-led events. However, time inconveniences, a large commuter population, the absence of free items, and social shyness pose reasons as to why events receive minimal turnout for these student-led initiatives or the constant inconsistencies with the numbers we receive at events. This data reveals that event planners and organizers should be more conscientious and mindful of their event planning process and coordination, or they run the very possible risk of undeserving the entire Pace community, missing their target audience entirely. 


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