University welcomes community to campus throughout the year
New and returning events in the past year highlight the unusually strong connection between the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith and the community that surrounds it.
Among the new events with a community flair was the university’s first fall Family Weekend.
Creation of the event was driven by the Student Government Association, when it resolved to have Homecoming moved to the spring to celebrate the basketball season. At the same time the students wanted to create a Family Weekend in the fall.
“The idea was to give an opportunity for students’ families to come and visit them on campus,” explained Stephanie London, director of Student Activities and coordinator for Student Affairs. Family members want to see “what it’s like to be a student here at UAFS.”
Although there was no money budgeted for the new event, organizers were able to yoke several activities together to make the weekend successful. Friday Oct. 21 and Saturday Oct. 22 already had volleyball games scheduled, so those became anchors.
The Theatre @ UAFS Presents offered 10th anniversary performances both evenings of the award-winning original drama “Corrigenda.”
Friday also offered a showing of the movie “Ghostbusters” on the campus green and two hours of family time at the RAWC, the new student-supported Recreation and Wellness Center.
Saturday began with a Chili Cook-Off Tailgate event in the parking lot of the Windgate Art & Design Building. Following the noon volleyball game, families received maps to the murals downtown that are part of The Unexpected: Festival of Murals. Area restaurants offered a discount to Family Weekend participants.
Greek Week festivities wound up with a lip-sync battle open to students and family members.
The Chancellor’s Leadership Council Class also planned and hosted a new community-friendly event. Continuing the Family Weekend theme, class members sponsored UAFS: F is for Family the next Tuesday.
Student Davin Chitwood told the Times Record newspaper that the event was meant to remind people of how important family time is by offering community members a chance to unplug. The event, held in the Stubblefield Center, included inflatables, carnival games, food, drinks, and music. Members of the men’s basketball team were around to sign autographs and interact with children. The women’s team played a game in the center that day as well.
February saw yet another event that was open to the university and the community: a live Street Fair on Kinkead Avenue. Despite a sudden cold snap, the event, part of 2017 Homecoming Week and Alumni Weekend, brought people together to celebrate Fort Smith’s emerging food truck culture. Also available were ice skating, henna tattoos, live action role-playing, trivia games, bands, and a live disc jockey.
Of course the grandmamma of UAFS’s stretch into the community is the Season of Entertainment, now in its 36th year. The season includes UAFS student shows, including musical and dramatic performances; the Season’s Greetings concert is always a crowd favorite. Four professional traveling productions are included; this year Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas show and the “42nd Street” were crowd favorites.
There are no fences around the UAFS campus as there are on some campuses. UAFS has grown up in the city as the city has grown and it seeks to be a part of the city and to have city residents become a part of it. Although it shed “community” from its name, there is no doubt the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith remains the community’s university.