When the Willamette Events Board brought an ice rink to campus last fall, student organizers carefully planned everything from where to set up to what beverages to serve.
The one thing they couldn’t control was the weather.
“We had planned to have all the activities outside, and then the torrential rain began,” says Annie Gainza ’14, Willamette Events Board co-president. “We wanted to create a huge winter wonder land, and instead, everything was flooded.”
Rather than becoming discouraged by the knee-deep water, the WEB leaders moved the activities and snacks into a nearby residence hall.
Gainza says WEB members kept their composure and sense of humor, and through their efforts, more than 300 students enjoyed the ice-skating study break.
“It constantly surprises me what these leaders can do,” she says. “Everything that we had planned just wasn’t happening, but we still had a great time.”
What is Willamette Events Board?
Bringing an ice rink to the Quad is one of more than 35 events WEB organizes each year.
Through WEB, students assert control of entertainment brought to campus — including popular bands, magicians, formal dances, lectures and talent shows.
“The mission of WEB is to provide students with opportunities to do things they might not otherwise get to do at Willamette, while also creating a fun atmosphere on campus,” says Nathan Combs ’13, WEB co-president. “Even if you don’t go to every event, it’s nice to know there are entertaining options if you want to take a study break.”
Each of WEB’s 13 student board members chairs a different aspect of campus programming: annual events; campus events; awareness, discussion and dialogue; random fun; performing arts; and publicity. The group also includes ambassadors from the American Studies Program.
Unlike the leaders of most student organizations, WEB members are hired through an application and interview process, and they receive a stipend for their work. During their year on the board, WEB members meet weekly and work individually to plan all aspects of campus events.
“We try to create events that students will enjoy,” Combs says. “You have to think about what other people would like to do, not just what you or your club want to do.”
Though Beth Dittman ’02 — Willamette’s associate director of student activities — serves as WEB’s advisor, she says the students are the driving force in planning events.
“The students are so well organized and cohesive that I don't really even need to be here — they know where to check themselves, how to make tweaks on the fly and the value of supporting one another,” she says.
With WEB receiving 27% of student body fees — more than $45,000 per semester — deciding how to allocate these funds is an important responsibility.
“The reason we are a student board, student run, is so we can relate to the students and know what they want and when,” Gainza says. “We want to make sure we spend everyone’s money in the most effective way possible.”
As co-presidents, Combs and Gainza provide the WEB chairs with the structure to plan events — including the timeline and budget — as well as assistance with reserving spaces, working with performers, completing contracts and organizing publicity.
Combs says his job has taught him customer service and marketing skills that will continue to benefit him after graduation.
“I am able to show potential employers that I’ve managed a budget, not just for an internal organization, but that I have managed a budget designed to do outreach to unaffiliated people,” he says.
As the board’s advisor, Dittman says WEB alumni often contact her to say how much the experience taught them about professionalism and teamwork.
“Not only do students gain program planning and implementation skills — such as time management, responsible allocation of resources and community outreach — they also gain the people skills most sought out by employers,” she says.
A Team of Leaders
Though each chair is given the freedom and responsibility to organize individual events, Combs says WEB is a cohesive team.
“Students commit their time because they want to, which lends itself to a fun, collaborative atmosphere,” he says. “When we have our meetings, it feels like we are just hanging out with 10 people who want to create events for other people.”
Regardless of their class year or prior leadership experience, students say they thrive in WEB’s supportive and creative environment.
“WEB is a great place to start your involvement on campus because you get to meet so many people,” Gainza says. “You really get to know the school.”
After devoting weeks or months to meticulous planning, on the day of an event the team is ready for anything — even flooded ice rinks. As they watch their hard work and dedication come to fruition, Gainza says the board members’ enthusiasm is contagious.
“That dynamic when everybody gets in the room, it comes out of nowhere,” Gainza says. “Everybody being together is what makes that happen.”
To submit suggestions or comments to WEB, visit their office in the Office of Student Activities, on the second floor of the Putnam University Center.• Story by Katie Huber ’13, politics major