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One Big Thanks

Delegates from universities gather at A&M, exchange ideas for Big Events

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 00:02

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This year's Big Event Conference marked the greatest representation of students from across the nation to date with 112 delegates sharing the same vision of saying “thank you” to their community through The Big Event.

Drawn together by a common goal and purpose, students from around the country gathered at A&M Saturday to promote community-wide service in their areas.

Representatives from 23 universities joined A&M’s Big Event staff in the MSC for a conference Saturday, creating an environment where students could learn from one another and discuss ways to grow and better their upcoming day of service.

Although this year was the seventh annual conference, it marked by far the greatest representation of students from across the nation to date with 112 delegates sharing the same vision of saying “thank you” to their community through The Big Event.

Will Nereson, a Big Event outreach executive and senior industrial distribution major, said he saw this year’s conference as a testimony to the national impact of The Big Event.

“The conference is a way for [others] to tangibly see that impact,” Nereson said. “There’s much more to it than just our one Big Event.”

Nereson emphasized the theme of this year’s Conference, “One Big Day,” and noted its connection to The Big Event’s national vision.

“All of these schools from all over the nation have their separate Big Events, so we will gather them together on one day and all perform our Big Event on that day,” Nereson said. “That’s the ultimate vision that The Big Event is going toward. We are also labeling that as a national service project for college students.”

The conference consisted of round table discussions on topics such as recruitment of volunteers, technology and how to start a Big Event, and featured guest speakers such as vice president for Student Affairs, Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Weber, and vice chancellor of recruitment and diversity, Frank Ashley.

Though Ashley touched on many subjects, his thoughts were summed up in one question: “What is service?”

Ashley said the word “service” has recently welcomed a negative stigma, and that when a person today thinks of working in an unappealing profession.

Denouncing this notion, Ashley charged the delegates to set an example to the nation of what it means to serve their communities selflessly.

Virginia Tech, home to the second largest Big Event in the nation, was represented at Saturday’s conference. Jamie Lien, co-assistant director of Virginia Tech’s Big Event, saw the conference as a learning opportunity.

“[We hope to] learn from A&M,” Lien said. “Obviously they are the biggest and best out there right now. They’ve got it down to a science as far as how The Big Event works.”

This was the second year that Virginia Tech has attended the conference in College Station and co-assistant director Tony Ardura said, after last year’s conference, their team decided to do a mock Big Event in preparation for the real day.

“A few weeks before the real Big Event happens, we go up to where our location is and walk through with our committee and staff to see how everything is going to work,” Ardura said. “That is something we had not done before, but when we implemented it, it was very effective in educating everyone who was a part of it.”

Ardura also communicated Virginia Tech’s admiration for the practical and noteworthy website that A&M’s Big Event provided for the first time this year.

Though it was her first time to attend the conference, co-director of fundraising for Virginia Tech’s Big Event, Chelsea Hall, expressed hope for the University’s future attendance.

“We missed the past couple years, but last year we came, and we are trying to make it a new tradition to come to this,” Hall said. “I feel like we are not only learning a lot, but because we are getting bigger, we can also help other people. It is cool to help other people and to learn at the same time.”

While most of the speakers at the conference were Big Event staff or A&M administration, delegates from Auburn University had the opportunity to share their “Big Event 365” philosophy, a testimony to their passion for service through The Big Event.

The principle of Big Event 365 is founded on the idea of serving the Auburn community outside of the few hours on the day of The Big Event. They send staff to residents’ homes throughout the year in order to uphold their mission statement, “One Big Family, One Big Difference, One Big Event.”

Catherine Pariseau, assistant executive director of outreach at Auburn’s Big Event, identified similarities between their Big Event and the one at A&M.

“We definitely have the same mission statement,” Pariseau said. “We want to build those relationships. We don’t want to simply target needy people, we want to target the whole community as a way of saying ‘thank you.’ So, we definitely have that in common with Texas A&M.”

Albert Willis, senior information and operations management major and A&M Big Event’s development executive, said he particularly enjoyed the discussions made possible through Conference’s round table sessions.

“One of the greatest things I’ve seen today is talking with these schools and seeing the different aspects and angles that they have on recruiting,” Willis said. “One of the things we talked about in our round table session was how [Big Event staff] relates to the community, and who we contact to know what the community is doing.”  

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