Article from Campus Activities Programming® Magazine’s “Curtain Call” – Back To School Issue – 2016
A few years ago, at Minot State University in North Dakota, I was performing on an outdoor stage on the quad for a back-to-school activities fair. It was a beautiful sunny day and the fair was packed with new and returning students. Everything was going great until the automated sprinkler system turned on and began to shoot water in every possible direction. There were hundreds of students at the event and all of the tables were covered with giveaways and brochures. This was going to be a disaster!
What would you have done in this moment? Would you have known who to call to get the key or the code to turn off the sprinklers? How long would it take to soak all of the tables, the students, and the school’s new sound system? Five minutes? Twenty minutes?
Well, on this day, it took 47 seconds from the first little sprinkle to the shutoff of thousands of gallons of potentially drenching water. Thanks to Leon Perzinski, the quick-thinking and well-connected student center director, the disaster was averted. He knew exactly who to call. And Leon was not even coordinating this event! He was just stopping by to say “hi” to me. What if he had not been there and this had been your event? Would you have known who to call and what to do?
How did Leon go from “just a guy walking by” to “super hero” in a few short seconds? What made this rescue possible? Leon’s network!!! Quite simply, Leon has taken the time and made the genuine effort to get to know everyone on campus! He knew exactly who to call. And, how did he get to know everyone and understand their roles and responsibilities? By networking right where he works, by meeting folks in other departments, by introducing himself to his colleagues and learning about them and what they do.
Even his decision to stop by and say “hi” to me was an example of his genuine efforts to stay connected to the folks he knows. Before the “great sprinkler fiasco,” I had worked with Leon and his students in the Union and we had become part of each other’s networks. We would see each other at conferences and chat about the new events going on in each other’s lives and careers. We had become friends. And, it was Leon who recommended me to the advisor who was coordinating the back-to-school fair. He was able to help a new colleague by making real connections. Leon was not only connected and well networked on campus, but was also connected off campus. And, because he is a super-networker and cares greatly about his campus, Leon’s off-campus connections were in place to help serve his own campus community.
Like Leon, I understand the great value of networking. I meet professionals and students on all of the great campuses across the country, at regional and national conferences, and even in professional online groups. Yes, you can build a network of colleagues on the Internet! Leon and I have been Facebook friends since August of 2010. But it all comes back to how you use your networks to serve your campus community. There are lots of great ways to meet and stay genuinely connected. These conference and online connections can help you solve problems, introduce you to new ideas, speakers and performers, and these connections may lead to great friendships!
But, I repeat, your network off campus can greatly benefit your network on campus. Before you build your off-campus community, though, you must begin to practice the art of face-to-face networking right on your own campus. Your role as part of the bigger team is incredibly important to the people with whom you work and you can better serve your campus community by connecting, engaging with, and understanding your own campus community.
How many different people come into play to make colleges and universities run smoothly? Have you taken the time to meet folks in other departments? Do you know the building maintenance staff? The groundskeepers? The security officers? What about the professors? Do you understand what they do in their roles? Whether you are a student, faculty member, administrator, or staff, it is important that you make a genuine effort to get out and meet as many people as possible. They may need your expertise someday soon. And, you will benefit greatly by being connected to more than just your office colleagues.
Will you know who to call when the sprinklers come on?
Be like Leon and become a super hero! Don’t soak your clubs and organizations! Network! Network! Network!
Jason LeVasseur lives in Nashville, TN, and is one of the most awarded music performers in campus entertainment. He is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project.” Visit http://www.jasonlevasseur.com. He is represented in NACA by Bass-Schuler Entertainment in Chicago, IL.
“Curtain Call” is a regular feature of Campus Activities Programming® in which performers or agents who are members of NACA share anecdotes that help illuminate their perspectives and experiences in the college market.