Making student engagement a priority
Cats After Dark aim to provide campus with late-night activities to boost student interaction
Cats After Dark, an organization that has members who are staff and student leaders throughout the division, is a central initiative in student affairs, enrollment management, academic initiatives and student success, which is a division of the university.
The organization members come together to promote late-night events on campus.
According to the Cats After Dark mission statement, their aim is to “provide students events late at night—specifically, multiple opportunities for engagement and alternatives to consuming alcohol.”
“Our primary goal is to revive students’ opportunity to engage in that student experience late at night.” said Mike Schilling, Community Director, Residential Education in Housing and Residential Life, and the Chair of Cats After Dark. “Sort of our sub-goal is to provide students opportunities that don’t involve alcohol.”
As part of the college culture, which Schilling acknowledges, it is often believed that in order to have the full college experience or else engage in something fun is to go to an event where you may feel pressure to drink.
“One of our goals is to provide events that should be just as fun but don’t include that [alcohol] or don’t have that pressure involved. Our mission is to electrify that student experience by providing that late-night engagement,” Schilling said.
Cats After Dark has been around since its beginning as a pilot program in the spring of 2016. Schilling mentioned it hasn’t necessarily changed direction since its inception, but it has changed in the staff members who are and are not involved.
When asked if the programs have changed, Schilling said, Yes and no.
"I would say the amount of programs that have received sponsorship from it so that has changed a little bit. We’ve had some involvement from the Daily Wildcat, last semester especially there was some involvement and we’ve had here and there different groups come forward, wanting to be involved," Schilling said.
The partnership between Cats After Dark and The Loft Cinema have remained constant, for instance, as well as Cats After Dark’s partnership with Campus Recreation. Newer programs include the Cats After Dark film series at Gallagher Theater.
“About twice a month we’ve partnered with Gallagher Theater to have a later night showing, some of their 8pm showings have Cats After Dark as a sponsor, a co-collaborator in that event,” Schilling said.
The movies shown are chosen in part to popular demand but are also associated with one of the values that Cats After Dark has: student engagement. According to Schilling, student employees that work with Gallagher Theater and that choose the films run them by Schilling, who usually gives them the go-ahead. These students do market research on what students are watching and what’s popular.
“Wherever we can we like to have students really running it because this initiative is meant for students,” Schilling said. “I will say there is some student involvement—it’s usually not the main driving factor but that’s partially because of culture, you know it tends to be college culture that what you do at night is drink, is consume alcohol."
For those who want to get involved with Cats After Dark, Schilling suggests the best way for them to participate is to get involved with Cats After Dark Engage, which is a student-run group through Housing. Cats After Dark Engage is really a programming board in many ways but their focus is late-night programming; Cats After Dark supports many of their events.
The group is new; it is in its first year. You do have to be an on-campus student to get involved in it.
“They [Cats After Dark Engage] are running two to three late night events a semester. Next year one of the best ways for folks to get involved, especially our first-year students who live on campus, is through their hall councils, through RHA [Residence Hall Association], or through Wildcat Events Board,” Schilling said.
Though this wouldn’t necessarily be direct involvement, these are groups that occasionally run later night events and that’s how students can really get involved. Hall councils tend to run some late-night events for all of campus as well.
“They [students] can always reach out; there are different ways to get involved. I know Campus Health has had some interns in that past that have gotten involved, Campus Recreation when they run Glow Sports—their student staff get involved, so there are a lot of different routes to be involved with late night events," Schilling said.
Depending upon the event that Cats After Dark is holding, attendance varies. However, for the data that has been collected thus far, event attendance has proven to be successful.
“We want to make sure there’s something for folks to do if they want to participate in something,” Schilling said.
There are various ways to stay up-to-date on what’s going on with Cats After Dark. You can like their Facebook page, for instance. If you’ve been to an event, you may also have been opted into the Cats After Dark email listserv.
“If they’ve been to an event [and] have checked in with a CatCard, they get added to that list and they can always opt out if they don’t want to remain on it. When we’ve surveyed students they usually say that email’s the way they like to find out about things so that’s really what we’re starting to push a bit more,” Schilling said.
Cats After Dark has found success and hosts many events; it has come far since its launch, according to Schilling.
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“A lot of what I thought would be further in the future, we’ve already come to. I mean having a student group be devoted to it is something I didn’t think would happen until maybe year three [and] it’s something we’re already trying out,” Schilling said.
The vision for Cats After Dark is to be a central place that students go for late-night programming. The hope is that students know if they want to do something late at night, they should check out what Cats After Dark has going on.
“I’d love for it to be something that has a central office and a central place; something that we’re always working on.” Schilling added when describing his hopes for the future of Cats After Dark. “That’s something I see for the future, that students can get more directly involved in. I would say that’s the most important thing that students know exists and know they can go on campus for late night events.”
Cats After Dark itself is a source to promote and sustain late-night programming on campus; the more that’s going on, the more students are entertained and stay away from dreaded hangovers and the like, all the while having a good time.
In the near future, Cats After Dark is continuing its Gallagher film series with “Space Jam”, which will show at Gallagher Theater on May 3 at 6 and 8pm, May 4 at 8pm, and May 5 at 8pm. A “Star Wars” movie night will be held from 9-11pm at Highland Bowl on May 3. Follow Cats After Dark on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to stay tuned on upcoming events.
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