What’s Trending At Minnesota State?
Programming Director Sees Millennials
As Wanting To Be ‘Part Of The Event’
By Lenny Koupal, Centennial Student Union Communications Coordinator
Part of the continuing effort for keeping higher education relevant is adjusting the university experience to ever-changing trends.
University campuses such as Minnesota State University, Mankato continually seek greater diversity among faculty and staff to meet the expanding cultural demographics of its student body. Other challenges and opportunities involve responding to the needs of distance learners as online classes appeal to students across the state or just across campus.
For Bill Tourville, assistant director of campus programs, his Student Events Team within Student Activities at the Centennial Student Union must balance events between a generation of students that either wants to get an education and get out – or those that want to interact.
“The days of sitting and watching are over,” Tourville said. “Today’s Millennials and Gen-Y’ers want to interact. They want to be part of the event.”
Tourville said 15 years ago, the entire lineup of campus programming would have been performances.
“The traditional performance style is outdated. Students want to be part of something bigger” – Bill Tourville
“That’s not okay anymore. The traditional performance style is outdated. Students want to be part of something bigger,” he said.
Among the most popular traditions coordinated by the Student Events Team is the annual CSU Haunted House. Much of the entire 215,000-square-foot student union turns into Halloween Spook Central as various student organizations put together their idea of scary. Hundreds of students line-up to be engaged and engrossed in the moment.
Campus versions of game shows and cosmic bingo, exotic animal day and even organized snowball fights are on the students’ wish list of events.
Tourville said another balancing act is national name recognition versus unique experiences. Students on one hand are most comfortable with “national prepackaged stuff” whether its movies or concerts or lectures.
“Unless it’s a national name, most students are not interested,” he said. “Unless a friend is in a band or it’s a national name, they won’t go.”
On the other hand, students are drawn to unique, interactive experiences. Many of those involve some level of technology whether it’s smart boards in student union meeting rooms or spaces that are flexible, communal gathering places.
For concerts, Tourville said the trend is to direct dollars to production as well as performance. A recent Electronic Dance Music performance in the CSU blended music with a multimedia experience.
“Some schools are spending a third of their concert budget on production – lights, sound, décor – students are wanting that experience,” he said. “It’s not only about the performance but about the experience they had.”
Within those type of interpersonal events is the growing trend in live streaming. At Minnesota State Mankato, Tourville said Facebook live streaming at concerts starts in the morning and continues until they contractual must shut down the site.
“Two of the artists at our EDM concert were Facebook live streaming the entire concert,” he added.
When, where and how live streaming is allowed is now creating issues that need to be addressed.
Tourville adds that social media continues to be a trend that needs constant attention. Even then, organized programs or departments are viewed as outsiders in students’ social media circles. Snapchat is the latest trend in the social media landscape.
“Snapchat is not going away,” Tourville said. “It’s how (students) are connecting with their friends. That is how they are communicating on an interpersonal level.”
While Facebook is a popular communication tool, it doesn’t reach into a student’s inner circle.
“Facebook is your public persona, Snapchat is more private,” he said. “Today’s students seek a place where they can just be personal and we can’t reach them. They can be private on Snapchat.”
Tourville said the trend is to take a different Facebook approach by providing good content that they can use personally.
For student life professionals, these changing trends for the Millennial generation means – perhaps now more than ever – the continuing trend of vigilance, flexibility and creative ideas that keep the college experience fresh and memorable for a diverse, individualized and interactive array of college students.