Elon University’s Student Union Board has come a long way.
SUB President Joe Ziemba remembers a time when the organization was lucky to get five people at SUB Cinema, an on-campus event that gives students an opportunity to watch a free movie every Saturday night.
Now, the event often gets more than 40 people, and the organization’s credibility has been validated on a national scale: The National Association of Campus Activities recently awarded SUB for best web design by a student, best printed advertisement and best student-produced video at NACA’s Southern Regional Conference Sept. 27 in Winston-Salem.
“The awards definitely put SUB out there as one of the better boards,” said Adam Bell, assistant director of student activities. “By going up against 15 or 20 other schools and coming away with these awards, it’s definitely something to be proud of that will also motivate them to do better.”
All 11 members of SUB’s executive staff attended the conference, which gave boards from colleges and universities around the Southeast the opportunity to enter a graphics competition.
Entries were submitted and divided by whether it was made by a student, associate or professional, and each of these three divisions had seven categories: poster/flyer, printed advertisement, themed campaign, 3-D promotional items, website, video and banner.
Each school was limited to one entry per category, so SUB submitted its “Student Union Board In-Print” calendar advertisement, a video that revealed the musical artists who would be performing in the 2012 Spring Show and its website, elonsub.org, which Ziemba recently redesigned himself with the help of the University of Kentucky’s web master Scott Wagner.
“The website has been an incredible tool,” Ziemba said. “It gives us an online presence that people can really connect to. When we redesigned, I wanted it to be more usable and show SUB’s personality. Our board has a very vibrant personality that we’ve been able to show through what we’ve done on the website as well as our print advertisements.”
The best part about receiving these awards is the positive reflection it has on the hard work the organization has done for the student body, Ziemba said.
“I think getting the awards from NACA validated the work we’ve done by having a national organization say our work is really excellent,” Ziemba said. “It makes us feel more accomplished and helps motivate us to continue to put in all the work that we do.”
But the staff of SUB hasn’t always felt so motivated. When Ziemba first got involved with the organization as a sophomore, he noticed that it wasn’t well known, and the few who did know about it didn’t think positively about SUB’s mission. The executive staff felt underappreciated.
“A lot of people thought, ‘Oh SUB, they’re the kids who don’t drink and don’t party. They don’t have any fun, they just plan stuff on the weekends to keep people from going out,’” Ziemba said. “That actually isn’t what we do. Our goal is not to keep you from having fun – our purpose is to provide students with free, fun entertainment, and it was hard to keep the staff motivated when we felt people didn’t understand that.”
While SUB does not encourage drinking, Ziemba said staff members have no interest in stopping drinking on or off campus. They simply want to provide opportunities for students to enjoy themselves as often as possible, which is why the organization offers at least three alcohol-free, university-sponsored events a week that range from musical acts to comedians.
“We want to make a student’s experience at Elon more entertaining so they’re not just sitting around at 8 p.m. on a Friday night being bored and then calling their parents and saying they have nothing to do,” Ziemba said. “You have stuff to do. We give you great things to do and we want students to know that.”
Fortunately, Ziemba said he’s seen a huge increase in attendance and positive feedback during the last year.
“I think students finally appreciate what SUB is and what we do and they know what our purpose is,” he said. “Just this semester, people have come up to us and said, ‘SUB is so great. You guys do such awesome things and we have a lot of fun at your events,’ and that’s never happened before.”
With this newfound appreciation from students, along with validation from NACA’s awards, the morale of SUB’s executive staff has never been better.
“The mood around the board is so excited and positive,” he said. “They want to find new ideas and find out what the campus wants so students can go home and brag to their friends, ‘This is what my school does, and I love it.’”