[Fresh] Weekends

John Immerwahr (john.immerwahr@villanova.edu)
Tue, 10 Oct 2000 10:31:13 -0400

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Interview with Thomas Mogan, Director of Student Development

Fresh@News. One of the things we hear from our students is there is
not enough for them to do on weekends. What is that all about?

Thomas Mogan. I hear that too, which always amazes me because, as I
sometimes reply, “we have a whole calendar of things to do.”

F@N. Before we talk about some of the activities, let’s probe the
attitude. Why do they say that?

TM. There are a few factors here. One is that students are now much
more responsible for their own time than they were in high school, so if
they don’t actively make some choices and decisions, they will be
sitting around alone. This in itself is a new experience for some of
our students, so in their social life, as well as in their academic
life, they have to take more responsibility for how they spend their
time. Also, they have many more hours of unstructured time to fill.
Instead of being in high school five days a week, they may have only 15
to 18 hours of class a week. Although the workload is usually much
higher than it was in High School, there certainly is a lot more
unstructured time. Sometimes it takes them awhile to learn how to fill
some of that time.

F@N. Is the information about what is going on available to them?

TM. Actually information overload can be a problem. We make a lot of
effort to get the word out to students about activities on campus.
Unfortunately, there are many campus organizations competing for our
students’ attention through posters, ads, and e-mails, so the students
sometimes tune out. The students have to learn to be more pro-active,
to review the options and to do some advance planning.

F@N. The thing I never understand is this; the students are
surrounded by people of their own age, so you would think that they
would always enjoy just being with each other.

TM. That can work both ways. Remember, they are with other young
people on a 24/7 basis anyway. They are already spending a lot of time
with their friends, so just getting together with other students isn’t
something new. When the weekend rolls around they are looking for
something different.

F@N. What is available for them?

TM. We offer many activities here on campus for our students, and lots
of our first year students have a great time. On any given weekend we
typically have a band, movies, and all of the things that students
usually enjoy. The entertainment is run by students for students, so
the activities are designed to appeal to this age group. Parents should
consult our website at www.villanova.edu/studentdevelopment to get a
sense of some of what is going on.

F@N I understand you have a new activity called Late Night Villanova.
What is that about?

TM. In the past, many of our weekend activities would end at 10 PM and
the student center would close at about the same time. The problem is,
of course, that many students aren’t ready to go to bed at 10 PM on a
Saturday night. So, this year we have started a whole new set of
on-campus activities that are available from 10 PM to 2 PM on Friday and
Saturday evenings. We always have free food, and our “Cyber Lounge” is
open for pool and other games. At the same time we offer programming
with musicians and other activities. We also offer free midnight
showings of our movies. Generally we show movies that have just left
the theater but aren’t out yet in video, such as “Gladiator,” “Perfect
Storm” and “The Patriot.”

F@N. We hear a lot about off-campus parties. What is going on with
that?

TM. It is true that older students will often have off-campus parties.
These parties might be associated with a fraternity or sorority, or
might be offered by other groups of upper division students. Some of our
first year students do go to these parties and they may have a good
experience. However, these parties are not supervised by the University
so sometimes problems do come up. When we can, we make efforts to work
with some of the older students on proper risk-management, and we also
spend a lot of energy with our first year students educating them about
making safe choices, but our main effort, as I have said, is providing
positive alternatives here on campus.

F@N. What about the surrounding area? There is certainly a lot going
on. Do our students take advantage of the Philadelphia area?

TM. We used to give a Philadelphia tour for seniors, and we were always
surprised at how many of our students really didn’t know the city,
especially given how well served we are by public transportation. Last
year we started a new program called “Best of Philly.” Once a month we
offer a trip to Philadelphia, and we try to balance more serious
activities like going to a museum or a play with more traditional
entertainment like going to a sports event then going out for a “Philly
cheesesteak.” We hope that when students see how much is going on and
how easy it is to get into Philadelphia, that they will start to take
advantage of these opportunities themselves.

F@N. What about student clubs and organizations? What do we offer?

TM. We have over 90 clubs and organizations. The class of 2004 was
already invited to our Activities Fair, and now the individual clubs are
recruiting more members. The activities are a great way for students to
meet other students outside their classes and residence hall, and also
to build leadership skills. One of the most popular organizations is
our Campus Activity Team (CAT) which arranges all of our on campus
entertainments. Our Special Olympics program is also very popular. We
usually have over 100 student volunteers helping at our major Special
Olympics event in the fall.

F@N. A lot of students are talking about the “ropes course.” What is
that all about?

TM. We call it the Villanova Challenge. We have an installation near
Moriarty Hall where we offer leadership training programs to various
student groups (clubs, residence hall groups, and even classes). The
first set of exercises make up what we call the “team challenge” where
the team works together to confront and solve obstacles. One of our
exercises is the “acid river” where students have to use boards and
blocks to get their entire group across an imaginary river, solving the
problems as a group. The other aspect of the program is the individual
challenge (the “high ropes”). The idea is that once the students have
developed the support of the group on team exercises, they are ready to
challenge themselves as individuals, working to overcome fears and
limitations. For example, we have a 25 foot high rock climbing
exercise. Of course, we always use state-of-the-art-safety equipment,
all of our equipment is rigorously inspected by outside organizations
and the facilitators go through a thorough training course.

F@N Any other advice for parents?

TM. College is a great time for young people, but it does have
challenges. Although we talk a lot about the academic challenges, the
social challenges can be every bit as overwhelming. Sometimes students
just want to sit and wait for something to come to them, but they need
to learn to be a bit more proactive. Parents can encourage them to
explore the many activities that are available to them and to take
advantage of them.

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