Student Activities Changes Name to Office of Student Engagement


Students looking to buy a ticket last week for the weekend’s Mets game and trip to Six Flags Amusement Park might not have noticed the strips of paper covering some of the door signs on the fourth floor of the Student Commons.

Those sheets of paper displayed the new name of the Manhattan College office formerly known as Student Activities. Now the Office of Student Engagement, this summertime rebranding was done in part to ensure that the office was not defined as just a source of discounted tickets to sporting events and shows around the city.

“A lot of people on campus don’t realize the scope of the office and what we actually do on a day-to-day basis. So the name change will hopefully bring light to everything that we’ve   done,” John Bennett, director of student engagement (née activities) said.

As Bennett also explained in a letter to the editor published in The Quadrangle last week, the name change came about as a result of an external review of his office this past year.

Makeshift signage is being used in the Student Commons because of the department’s change of name. Sean Sonnemann/The Quadrangle.

The external review process, which includes examination of policies and interviews with staff members, is common practice among the various offices on campus and usually takes place for a few offices each year.

“Based on their [the reviewers’] conclusions and the data they looked at and the whole nine yards, they really felt that this scope of our office was much greater than what we were pigeon-holed to be,” Bennett said.

Those reviewers included colleagues from another institution, as well as Manhattan College Dean of Students Michael Carey, Richard Satterlee, vice president for Student Life and David Mahan, assistant provost and executive director for institutional effectiveness.

“It was completely up to us [Student Activities], the name change itself,” Bennett said. “Nothing was mandated or what have you, we thought it was a good opportunity for us. Then we floated the ideas around internally within our office for a while, and Student Engagement stuck.”

The Office of Student Engagement encompasses three areas of student life, including Intramurals and Recreation, Performing Arts and Student Development (clubs, on and off-campus activities, guest speakers and annual events).

In practice, the new name does not bring any substantial changes to the office’s responsibility or area of work within the college.

The external review process did however lead to several smaller changes with how the office operates internally and a few changes to events they hold around campus.

For example, the leadership weekend held last spring will now be stretched out to a series of semester long development workshops held this fall. Also, the name of Senior Week was changed to Commencement Celebration, in addition to other changes that students may or may not notice as the year progresses according to Bennett.

However, as with any name change, the challenge for the office now is to ensure consistency in branding as they transition from Student Activities to Student Engagement—hence the temporary sheets of paper covering the office’s door signs until new ones are delivered.

Over the summer, the office also switched its Twitter account handle, a significant source of announcements and major method of communicating with students, from @mcstudact to @mcstudentengage.

Other easy changes such as updating the office’s website, letterheads and logos were also instituted over the summer. More subtle changes to incorporate the new name are still in the works and include ordering new name-tags for office staff and a new portable photo backdrop for when guest speakers pose for pictures on campus.   

Michael Martello, junior, agrees that the office’s new name is a better fit for their involvement with campus life.

“The name change reflects the fact that the work they do is greatly influenced by dialogue with students. I feel that is also highlights the fact that they’re about more than just selling tickets to students.”

For others, like senior Stephen Toscano, old habits may die hard despite the office’s best intentions to rebrand themselves.

“I’m a senior. To me, it’s still going to be Student Activities—just like it’s still going to be East Hill Hall,” Toscano said.