Student Activities office created to unite social programming on campus

Lauren Goodpaster, the new assistant dean for the Student Activities Office. Photo courtesy of

By Fleming Smith

During the summer, Student Life underwent a reorganization that has added a new office to campus dubbed Student Activities. The office includes Greek Life, Campus Life, the Sewanee Outing Program, and the former Student Activities, which included The Board and the Sewanee Union Theatre.

According to Lauren Goodpaster, the new assistant dean for the office, Student Activities will not initially mean a slew of new social programming, but rather will function as an office that can facilitate and support initiatives for programming by students.

The office includes existing programs on campus, though as Goodpaster explained, “They’ve never been formally tied together as an office, as a unit, with support and with that true feeling of ‘we’re a team now, and we’re going to collaborate together, and collaborate and partner more with the rest of campus to see how we can do what we can to get students more connected in healthier ways.’”

Both Goodpaster and Suvi Piipponen, the coordinator for student activities, emphasized the opportunities for partnerships between different parts of campus. Student Activities has reached out to Athletics, Greek Life, the Office of Civic Engagement, McClurg, and the Sewanee Bookstore to find ways they can work together to provide students with unique ways of getting involved.

These partnerships are just getting started, they said, but they have plenty of ideas. For example, Piipponen and Goodpaster want to explore the potential of McClurg as a late-night space where students can gather.

“There’s so much untapped potential in terms of opportunities and partnership and collaboration. That’s what I’m most excited about,” Goodpaster said.

Currently, the office is meeting informally with student leaders on campus, including the Student Government Association, Order of the Gown, lead proctors, and more. They hope to understand “the pulse of campus” from these conversations, Goodpaster said, to lead them to what students really want to see at Sewanee.

“We hear students [say] ‘there’s nothing to do, there’s nothing to do.’ So we need to do a better job obviously so that students know there are things to do,” she added.

Piipponen has heard that students are interested in campus-wide events, which she acknowledges can be hard to organize but are immensely fun when successful. She also hopes events on campus can become more open to all students. Rather than events that are “tagged, or separated, or either/or” according to organization affiliation, she said, she wants all events to be simply Sewanee events.

“You’re a Sewanee student first,” Goodpaster agreed.

The Student Activities office will move into the office formerly occupied by the Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life. Forbes Mann (C’10), who held that position last year, has left, and they are currently looking to hire a new coordinator to be a part of the office.

Goodpaster is responsible for that position until it is filled, but during upper class rush, she sees herself as taking a “backseat role” and letting the student leaders shine, she said.

At the Launching of the New Year, Vice-Chancellor John McCardell announced that a social commons is being planned at the site of the Thompson Union. Goodpaster said that space is in the early planning stages and she is unsure of their office’s role in it, but both she and Piipponen were “excited” about having a space for students “that is lacking on campus right now,” according to Goodpaster.

Overall, Piipponen and Goodpaster were optimistic and enthusiastic about the year to come. While they see their primary role right now as listening to students, they are gathering ideas daily about how to support student involvement on campus.

“We want to increase school spirit, school pride, and that sense of we all belong here and there’s a place for all of us. And if students have trouble figuring out where that place is, we want to help them. We want to help them find a way to get involved and get connected,” Goodpaster said.