Last fall, the Thursday Night Owls committee made their initial debut with the October Fest event. This initiative began as a means to bring more opportunities to campus for Southern students to socialize and have fun toward the end of the school week.
Brian Pedalino, representative on the Thursday Night Owls committee, said it has been a major focus on this campus for a while to keep students on campus— especially on the weekends.
“For some time, there’s been a push to move away from the backpack school community,” said Pedalino, who is also the treasurer of the Student Government Association. “[The Thursday Night Owls] can answer to that problem.”
This month, the Thursday Night Owls will be hosting a spin-off of the National Basketball Association’s March Madness. The event, to be held on March 8, will feature sports-related games and food. Possibilities for the program include sports and carnival-style games. Students will be able to win tickets for playing these games and then redeem them for prizes. Additionally, there will be Buffalo wings, pizza, mozzarella sticks and other March Madness-themed food.
Joey Linebarger, though he has only attended two Thursday Night Owls committee meetings so far, said he is really excited about the possibilities for these Thursday night programs.
“I went to the Valentine’s Day program,” Linebarger said. “The events seem to get better as it goes on.”
As a freshman, Linebarger said he is really looking forward to coming up with more creative ideas for the programs too.
“I like programming,” he said. “I’m in [the Residence Hall Association], and I think the more programs that go on, the more students will stay on campus.”
Linebarger also felt that the Thursday Night Owls programs are a great alternative for students who may not want to go downtown.
Another freshman on the committee, Alex Kokkoros, has been a member since the programs began last fall. He said the programs are open to and a great opportunity for commuters as well.
“It gives commuters a reason to come up [to campus]—it’s an event to go to,” said Kokkoros.
A handful of commuters have attended the past programs, and the committee is hopeful that as word spreads further, more commuters will attend.
“We really want to promote more to the commuters,” said Stephanie Carli, a graduate intern at Southern and one of the people who has been advising the students and helping them get Thursday Night Owls off the ground.
“This gives commuters more of a reason to become a part of the [Southern] community,” Linebarger said.
As a new committee, the Thursday Night Owls’ programs are still growing.
“We’re getting better,” Kokkoros said. “[We’re] learning more how the events go—what works, and what doesn’t work.”
Improvement is the main focus of all programs at Southern, but the Thursday Night Owls committee is determined to listen to student feedback and make changes based on what attendees said in their surveys.
“We’ve gotten a lot of constructive criticism [from the student surveys],” Pedalino said.
Currently, the committee is utilizing a federal grant that was awarded for the 2011-’12 academic year; therefore, this funding will run out at the end of the spring semester. The committee members are hoping that the SGA, the Residence Hall Association or the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) might be able to provide funding so the events can continue in future years.
Some of the current members are working on proposals to these organizations and planning to meet with the appropriate administrators. According to Pedalino, the Thursday Night Owls representatives are hopeful that everyone will be supportive and understand the value of these events.
If they can find the support and funding through Student Life and Southern’s administrative team, one of the eventual long-term goals for Thursday Night Owls is to become a bi-weekly or even weekly event.
Central Connecticut State University currently has a somewhat similar program that occurs every Thursday night. At Central, the event is called Devil’s Den at 10 p.m.
According to the Central’s website, their mission is “to create fun, alternative, late-night activities for Central Connecticut State University students on a consistent basis.”
The events run from 10 p.m.–1 a.m. and the Devil’s Den webpage offers clubs and organizations a chance to host the weekly event. Like the Thursday Night Owls’ programs, at the Devil’s Den, students have the opportunity to participate in an activity and receive a novelty item.
“They bring in food and free stuff, photo booths, all kinds of things to get people to show,” said Jen Glifort, a junior at Central, about the Devil’s Den. “They host all kinds of diverse programs because any club can book the night and host it, so it’s always different.”
Central’s program is more established than Thursday Night Owls, and the committee might possibly consider using this model for future ideas. Glifort gave further examples of previous Devil’s Den events.
“Sometimes they show a movie that hasn’t left theaters yet, book a comedian or entertainer and some serious speakers,” she said.
And most importantly, Glifort said the students stay interested in the programs, because they are different every week, giving students new reasons to go.
In general, the merit of both Central and Southern’s programs is simply that they offer students another option for their late night entertainment.
“I like that the school hosts Devil’s Den every Thursday night,” Glifort said, “because it gives students another option besides getting wasted or going home for the weekend.”
And while Glifort admits that these programs are not always effective, she believes that they are beneficial nonetheless.
“It doesn’t always work,” she said. “Some students go to the event then go out and wreak havoc afterwards, but the school and [Central Activities Network] do what they can.”
The Thursday Night Owls committee members are hoping to do what they can as well. And like the Devil’s Den, it seems that Thursday Night Owls has great potential to succeed.
“The key to this committee is that it’s student run,” Pedalino said. “It’s not put on by an office that is trying to determine what the students want. It’s by students who know what other students are looking for.”