Student Affairs Still Thriving Despite Withering Wall Street

May 6, 2009  

Students and faculty visited the new M Lounge on during the ribbon cutting opening ceremony Wednesday, April 15, 2009. The lounge is the new leisure area in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center that features video games, sitting spaces and performance areas for students.

Students and faculty visited the new M Lounge on during the ribbon cutting opening ceremony Wednesday, April 15, 2009. The M Lounge is the new leisure area in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center that features video games, sitting spaces and performance areas for students. (PHOTO BY JULENE FLEURMOND / THE DAILY MUSTANG)

By Julene Fleurmond
jfleurmond@smu.edu

Although budget cuts and careful spending are prevalent at many organizations due to the economy, the Student Affairs division at SMU hasn’t felt as much of a negative impact. The department has been able to fund several events and even built new facilities in the past year.

“The student life and student affairs divisions of the university are often sheltered from radical financial changes because they’ve learned to form beneficial partnerships before the economic downturn started,” said Richard Owens, director of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center and a member of the Student Development and Programs Board.

“There is definitely an impact from the university standpoint, such as with reserve funds,” he added, “but within student affairs we haven’t been affected as much by the economy.”

Evidence for this includes the new “M Lounge,” a leisure space which recently opened on the second floor of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center in the location of the former Park ‘N Pony office. The lounge is a game area where students can also enjoy performances and relax between classes.

“We’ve gotten sponsorship from Game Stop, which is amazing,” Owens said. “There are some companies that are still profitable right now, like the gaming industry.”

A recent report says that gaming revenues have increased 13 percent since last year.

The M Lounge includes gaming consoles for Playstation and Wii, a stage area, special mood lighting and other features to make it resemble a sort of entertainment retreat.

Owens said he hopes the lounge will become the “release and relaxation” spot on campus, and that students will begin hosting events like karaoke nights, band competitions, movie showings and poetry slams.

Though Owens has not said how much money has been put into the lounge, he said that much of the financial support has come from outside companies who will also benefit from exposure in the deal from promotional materials within the lounge.

Funds for student organization event planning have also been widely available.

“There are several ways for students to get money for their events, such as applying for Student Senate funding and the EPIC grant,” Ke’Ana Hardy, a director in the Student Affairs office, said.

The EPIC grant, which stands for Evening Programs Initiatives Contributions, was created by the Drug and Alcohol Task Force to promote positive late-night events on campus. The grant gives student organizations up to $5,000 in funds for campus-wide, late-night programs that promote safe and responsible social interaction and behavior on and around the SMU campus.

“We had a Valentine’s Day red carpet event, and the grant paid $4,000 for food and decorations,” junior Christene Dino, president of student organization Talent Recruitment and Entertainment Agency Team (TREAT), said.

TREAT aims to recruit, and connect student performers with opportunities to exercise their abilities and to network.

Owens is also an EPIC Committee Chair, and he said that the he is passionate about getting students to take advantage of the grant so that the university will keep sponsoring such funds.

Not all Student Affairs staff offices have had positive experiences in the economy. Mariana Sullivan, marketing director of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center, said that she has seen some local businesses pulling away from sponsoring events.

In February, she planned a Super Bowl Party and a Valentine’s Day vendor fair at the student center, and she said that some companies she called for sponsorship told her that the economy was too tough to give away items. Sullivan said former partnerships she had with the restaurant Olivellas and with other companies allowed her to gain sponsorship when other companies decline.

Sullivan also said that budget cuts have prevented her staff from attending their regular annual out-of-state training conferences. She said she does keep a positive outlook, though, as the economy’s effects have been minimal compared to other companies.

“Instead of lay-offs, I’ve seen a lot of people being hired in Student Affairs,” she said.

Even though they are optimistic, the Student Affairs staff is still careful to prepare and plan for the future.

“There’s definitely a possibility of seeing more changes,” Owens said, “but so far we’ve been lucky.”

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