New event kicks off school year

This year, for the first time, Gannon University offered a day full of free activities just after the start of classes to get students connected to more than just the university’s wireless networks.

Off the Hook, a new annual event to Gannon, took place on Saturday, Aug. 25, and was spearheaded by Alan Swigonski, the director of the Waldron Campus Center. It was held partly on the Carneval Athletic Pavilion field and partly in the building where the One Green World Café formerly resided, on the corner of Fourth and Sassafras streets.

Swigonski said he and his team decided to put Off the Hook into action for several reasons, but primarily he said he wanted something to fill that weekend after the start of classes. “From a social perspective, there wasn’t anything planned for the first week,” Swigonski said. “We wanted to plan something bigger for the first week of classes.”

Bigger, they did. Off the Hook provided food, games, entertainment and social interactions for students from 2 to 11 p.m. Swigonski said approximately 250 students attended the event, which was a little short of the goal of 300.

He said that this first Off the Hook event was definitely a learning experience for next year.

In order to yield the best results, Swigonski said, the Off the Hook team will be sending surveys to the 250 students who attended the event. He said they will pose quantitative questions, such as asking students to rate or grade the event; and they will also ask qualitative questions, like what students would like to see changed for next year.

He said the surveys will give students the opportunity to say exactly what they’re looking for in an event like this.

“All you have to do is give them the chance to have the open mind to say what they want,” Swigonski said.

He said that there were some questions that would have been included in the survey that pretty much answered themselves.

“For example,” he said, “we already know we need to start it later and run it later. We saw the biggest influx of students between 8 and 9:30 p.m. So that’ll be fun.”

He said running the event later also ties into creating an event that is an alternative to any parties that might be going on around campus that weekend, which was another goal with the creation of Off the Hook.

The free food, located in the former One Green World Café, was provided by Julie Glazier from the Sidewalk Café on North Park Row. The food included signature chicken wings, which Swigonski said received rave reviews.

Swigonski said the event was also created to showcase a wide variety of the talent that Gannon has. “We wanted to combine several programming events for something big and new to Gannon,” he said.

In addition to the food and games, Off the Hook featured events such as a live band, Man in the Maze, which is made up of Gannon students who play original songs. Students in the band include Ben Hyman, Evan Morgan and Luis Pontillo.

Other showcases included an open mic, which Swigonski said was very successful. He said Alpha Psi Omega, the theatre fraternity on campus, was given the chance to shine during this showcase. “They liked the opportunity to show what they can do,” he said.

Off the Hook also featured events like surfing the “outernet,” a volleyball net, as opposed to the Internet; balloon animals, prayer flags and a campfire, where Gannon ghost stories were provided by the Rev. Shawn Clerkin, an associate professor in the theatre department.

Swigonski said the campfire was “a nice way to taper off the evening.”

Students also had the opportunity to win several prizes, one of which was a brand new iPad.

Sam Hyman, the campus events tech director at Gannon, also worked on Off the Hook and said he is looking forward to next year as well.

He said Off the Hook worked as a great opportunity to showcase the former One Green World Café building, as it will be turned into something new for the Gannon community in the next couple of months.

Hyman is working on the project that will occupy the space at Fourth and Sassafras streets. He said the new location will feature a pool tables, dart boards and occasional events – such as concerts – for Gannon students.

He also said the new project will have a fully functional kitchen, where signature soft drinks, slushies and iced teas will be served, among other products.

Hyman said the new space should be opening within the next couple of months. Meanwhile, he said, the One Green World Café will be moving to a new location, to be determined.

In regards to this new space Swigonski said, “Something interesting is coming down the road.”

KELLY MORELAND

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