Planning Gator Day

Gator Day has been an important annual tradition for Allegheny College. It allows students to learn about the academic programs and resources available to them, as well as student life. It is an important event for prospective college students as well as for current ones. Students are officially excused from classes so that they can be fully immersed into the exploration of opportunities.
After the great turnout for Gator Day 2022, the planning committee has already started organizing the next one, to be hosted on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
However, the committee hopes to receive contributions from students to make Gator Day better.
Third- and Fourth-Year Class Dean Jonathon May explained that many approaches for Gator Day preparation change from year to year thanks to students’ involvement and feedback.
Throughout the past 20 years, Gator Day has been a one-day, conference-style offering where students can attend different sessions about picking a major or preparing for post-college life. Recently, the festivities have been expanded.
“We turn the Сampus Center lobby into a central hub where students would come and go, and what sessions are going on, get their free gifts and lunch,” May said.
The concept for Gator Day now is to bring various offices to inform students
on things such as study away, health care professions, graduate school and career education, as well as to host various workshops and sessions about information that would be helpful for their future.
Despite the fact that Gator Day is usually associated with first-years and exploring majors, upperclassmen might also advance their career path with new knowledge.
Talking about the outcomes of the preparation, May called it “an exciting day off of class to grow, and to learn and develop and change.”
May mentioned the importance of students’ efforts and feedback after each Gator Day. In particular, some students participated in the focus group to “become advocates” for the future Gator Day improvement and shared their ideas in the room with committee members.
One of the student’s suggestions was adding wellness program elements to the seminar schedule, since students often have hectic schedules and high course loads during the semester. In the future, Gator Day organizers aim to provide not only educational advice, but also stress and anxiety management.
“I think it’d be great to have Gator Day be a place where we could have yoga workshops and a meditation room,” May said. “We’re going to try to incorporate it into this new cycle.”
Additionally, students said they want to feel they accomplished something on Gator Day. The preliminary way of implementing it will be turning the Campus Center into an all-day transactional fair, where the college invites all the offices that provide services —like Public Safety with parking passes, the Financial Aid Office with financial aid counseling, Career Education with resume reviews and career coaching, and Aramark with meal plans — to be out and available to students.
The committee also pays attention to the successful experience from the past events. The most prominent session the previous year was about study away, according to May. Some of the students gave a panel talk presenting what they did for study away and what their experience was to encourage audience consideration.
Sophie Larson, ’26, liked the idea of engaging students to share their stories about studying abroad.
“It was a slideshow and there were four people who have studied abroad, and they each talked about their experience while they were there,” she said. “You can relate almost because they’re your age.”
Associate Professor of Biology and Director of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Matthew Venesky is considering discussions led by students for upcoming Gator Day.
“I’m probably going off of a model where the faculty are going to play a moderator role,” Velesky said. “I’m going to make it more student-focused because that’s what the students want and where they find the most value from that day.”
Both May and Venesky agreed that student collaboration and participation within both the events and the feedback process is beneficial.
May expects an increase in students willing to help with the actual preparation and the event running.
“We would love to have them commit some service,” May said. “It would be volunteer service. It wouldn’t be paid, but it would be a way to enhance your resume and a way to get some involvement on campus.”
Venesky said that interested students should try to find Gator Day programs that sound relevant but are outside of their wheelhouse.
“The Allegheny experience is more than the classroom,” Venesky said. “The students that succeed at Allegheny and after Allegheny are generally students that take advantage of transforming who they are in the classroom and outside of the classroom.”
To Larson, Gator Day is not not a one-time opportunity and deserves to be attended annually.
“I think going to (panels) again would be helpful because I didn’t retain a lot of the information,” Larson said. “I can at least get it again, and then go from there.”
Ultimately, student participation and preparation can be beneficial for life and career.
“Take that moment and reflect on the opportunity that this is your time to participate in things that are completely outside of what you’re learning about in the classroom,” Venesky said. “And those, I think, are the experiences that help students transform where they are, and become better students at Allegheny and better graduates after that.”