There seems to be a general consensus that the best way to get people out to events is to work with professors.
Here’s the gradient as far as their involvement:
- Write it on the board
- They let someone announce it before class
- They advocate it, either with you there or on their own
- They give some sort of extra credit for participation
- They physically take their class to the event
The first step is to have a quick conversation with the people you have in the activities department to see who has relationships with which professors. You want to have someone “own” the relationship, so that it is built up over time as the activities person and the professor work together. You definitely want to avoid 5 students bothering the same professor with the same request. Ideally the relationship would already exist from a class. If no one in activities has a relationship yet, it’s a great opportunity to do some networking!
Then the trick is trying to find the “honest angle”. This means seeing the world through the professors eyes and making a case that works with their motivation.
Most professors will let you write a note or give a short intro before class. It doesn’t cost them much. If you are polite and explain that involvement helps increase retention and graduating rates. (And it does, by the way, check out this success story.) In academic circles, you’ll hear piles about Astin’s Theory of Involvement. He put a stake in the ground about involvement in 1984, then updated it in 1999 – his theory should be central in the conversation with a professor.
You may even want to print out copies of this article with a personal note from the advisor and deliver it to the professors. Everyone on campus can help with involvement, and involvement helps everyone!
To get up into the more involved steps, 3-5, you’ll have to make a good case as to why the event is relevant to their particular course work objectives. In communications, you can talk about how the leadership program is trying to establish a common working language to reduce segregation and isolation on campus. If you’re not sure how to attach your event to their curriculum, try asking the activities advisor to brainstorm with you a bit. It is important not to try to stretch it too much, “your students can calculate the friction coefficient of the jumpy castle . . .” or else you’ll just lose your credibility and the relationship. It’s much better to say to a physics teacher – “it’s a comedian, it doesn’t have anything directly to do with physics, but a good laugh will help reduce their stress hormones (cortisol if you wanted to know) and this will help increase the retention of your assignments.” That example is kind of advanced, and I’m sort of kidding about it, I wouldn’t try it unless you have a decent relationship already.
The key is to play on the same team. They want happy students that learn and stick around. So do you. They want people to learn about the nuances of Chaucer. So do you. For real.