Matthew Christman is the Vice President of the Washburn Student Government Association (WSGA) and he kindly spoke with the Washburn Student Media on June 21. The WSGA acts as a representative body for students, comprised of students seeking to connect with Washburn staff and leaders. Christman discussed a number of topics from homecoming plans to freshman engagement and goals of the office.
Homecoming this year is set to be a stress-free ordeal. Christman said, “one of the main focuses this year is making homecoming something that you can enjoy. A lot of students voiced concerns with there being too much in previous years, what events to go to, what not to go to and cutting back a little may make it all less stressful.” Christman also intends to introduce an intermission day during homecoming. He tells us “one of the things I’m really excited for is trying to make a day in the middle of homecoming as kind of an intermission where students can slow down, unwind and take a break from all the festivities and focus on being a student for a day.” A rest day may be a great idea where students can catch up on their daily doings and rejuvenate, returning to the action the next day. As students’ feedback trickles in after the event we will know if the initiative was a success or not. While still under consideration he also discussed plans to remove the Ichabod Race. Christman says “one of the events we are talking about getting rid of is the Ichabod race. Students have brought that to our attention because when you’re in a WU 101 Class you already do the Library race and we felt that we were doubling up, that was the main event a lot of students talked about cutting out.”
Getting freshman engaged is never easy for campus activities. Often times they are occupied with school, work and extra-curricular activities such as sports or music, not to mention adjusting to university life. This WSGA is intent on getting them involved. Christman said, “there are a lot of ways to engage freshman but an idea that we are tossing around is having a WSGA rush type event where we can set up a week of events for the new students and freshman to come interact and see what WSGA is all about.” Christman continued, “we want new students to see that we too are students, in the aim of connecting with them on a one to one basis where it’s not just business but fun stuff too.”
With significant plans to get freshman involved Christman was asked about the value of engaging freshman. He said, “they are going to be the future of our university, one of the big issues for students is getting involved on campus. If we don’t get them involved early then they won’t be comfortable with people around campus and that can follow them through their time at university.” Relating on his own experiences of campus involvement, he says “we really have to get out there and make it feel natural for them, make it feel like they don’t have to go looking. It’s close to me because when I was a freshman I rarely got involved. Over this last year I got super involved and it has been the best decision I have made.”
Textbook affordability remains in the foreground and tackling this problem is one of the main targets for the year ahead. Christman said “a central goal is OER (Open Education Resources) which is essentially free textbooks. We are trying to talk to professors and advisors about their interest in it”. He outlines the strategy, saying “the library actually has a lot of OER’s, we can get these and transition classes into them so that students can get a free resource online as opposed to going out and buying a $200-300 textbook. In fact, in this past year we managed to get some of the algebra courses to switch over.” Should this continue to succeed it would be a great achievement and a huge win for students. Long term, Christman envisions tighter relationships between departments. He says “one of my biggest aspirations for the future is building more connections and collaboration between departments. It can be difficult with the heavy workloads for departments to work together but now we actually have a new engage program that will allow you to see the details, dates and times of all student organisation events. I’m trying to expand that to departments as well.” He explains the benefits, saying “having this information available for students to know what is happening around campus will encourage them to branch out and maybe attend events outside of their major or department resulting in students connecting with each other in broader ways.” The WSGA will continue to announce and implement strategies that better support the students in their time at Washburn.
Edited by Adam White, Joelle Conway