Behind-The-Scenes with USU Council

A Look at the Student Volunteers that Create and Run the Many Free Events on Campus

WORDS BY: DANIEL GREEN
PHOTOS BY: AMANDA DEL CID

One of the many perks of campus life are the events across campus – from Week of Welcome to speed dating or free concerts.

The USU Planning Council sets up noontime concerts periodically at the USU Patio for students. 

The USU Planning Council sets up noontime concerts periodically at the USU Patio for students. 

However, while most students get to relax and enjoy these events, there is a dedicated team of volunteers working behind the scenes planning and organizing.

This group, known as Beach Pride Events, works out of the Beach Pride Center in the University Student Union (USU). The student volunteers working on the council are known as program assistants.

“Beach Pride Events is largely volunteer based,” said Kaila-Marie Hardaway, lead program assistant of the program. “We have a lot of volunteers who come to our events and help out there. They’ll plan our events. They’ll attend our meetings and make important decisions for us sometimes.”

The council is designed to give student volunteers a chance to gain first-hand experience by having them organize and plan events.

“It’s all student-generated,” said Taylor Buhler-Scott, programs manager of the group. “They do the planning, layout and prizes. It’s great, because that’s what the purpose is – it’s by students, for students.”

One of the goals for the council is to try to create events that resonate with students.

“When you look back on your college [career], you look back on the full experience,” Buhler-Scott said.

While students see the finished product, there are a lot of responsibilities that program advisors take on when organizing an event.

Brandon Ayala started working at the Beach Pride Center at the front desk before he became interested in getting involved in event planning.

“The front-desk responsibilities are not the same as the programmer’s responsibilities,” he said. “There were a couple times where the programmers did need my help. After working with them for a couple projects, I liked what they were doing more than what I was doing at the front desk.”

Brian Ayala with the Beach Pride Center organizes the noontime concerts, featuring artists such as the ones pictured here, at the USU Patio. 

Brian Ayala with the Beach Pride Center organizes the noontime concerts, featuring artists such as the ones pictured here, at the USU Patio. 

Ayala liked the challenge and applied to be a program assistant when a position became available.

“It was definitely a lot more work, but it was fun work,” Ayala said.

The work that goes into an event can be complicated, so program assistants oversee every step as a result. As lead programmer, Ayala, with fellow student volunteers, organize every aspect of any potential event.

“When it comes to making that first call to book a reservation here on campus or to book a band or caterer, that’s our responsibility,” he said. “We’re in charge of the contracting process and price negotiation. We’re in charge of our own marketing.”

Ayala is primarily in charge of noon-time concerts, and he is tasked with finding different bands and advertising. This could be in the form of designing posters or promoting a concert on social media.  

“For noontime concerts, I want students to have a place to vibe out to different music,” he said. “It’s just finding out what students want first, and what we want students to get out of the event. From there, we kind of work around that and find out ways that we can execute our goals.”

While the assistants nail down the technical issues, they also try to consider the needs and desires of the more than 35,000 students on campus.

“I wouldn’t say it’s hard necessarily, but you do have to make sure that you put things in perspective all the time,” Hardaway said. “It’s important to look at your event when you’re either creating it or continuing an event to make sure it still suits all of our students here.”

One of Hardaway’s proudest achievements is the creation of the Queer Prom, which first debuted last April. The event was created to coincide with Queer Diversity Week.

The dance was intended to give members of the LGBT community a chance to experience a prom, something she said some members of the community miss out on during their high school years.

She said the Queer Prom was a challenge to plan since the council had to work with different departments to get permission for the event.

“We had to get a couple different regulations lifted in order to do this,” she said. “[There were] a lot of proposals, but, in the end, we had a really good turnout. We had really, really good feedback from all of our students, and we’re actually going to continue it this year.”

Hardaway said she likes how the council is made up of students with diverse backgrounds and ideas.

“It’s cool that we’re mostly student based because we ultimately know the best interest of our student body here,” she said. “We know what we want, so it kind of allows us to know what other students want.”

Hardaway admitted that certain parts of the semester can be harder than others, such as finals week, when student volunteers help organize events while trying to complete their own classes.

“There’s still those moments where it’s hard, but I think that’s how it is for any student who’s also balancing another job,” she said. “No matter what it is.”

Overall, Hardaway said that her time on the planning council has been a good thing and has helped her grow as a person.

“I was really, really shy when I came here,” she said. “I was very timid. I had big issues with public speaking. Talking on the phone made me very nervous, but I feel like I became really charismatic, and I’m not afraid to step up to the mic.”

“I’m kind of a whole new person in a cliché way,” she added.