NEW COORDINATOR HAS BRIGHT IDEAS FOR STUDENT ACTIVITIES OFFICE
“There is no typical day and that’s what I love most about this job,” says Jason McGraw, coordinator of the Student Activities Office (SAO). McGraw is the primary resource for the 146 student organizations on Haverford’s campus. Reserving rooms, answering hundreds of emails, advertising events, and meeting with students are all part of a day’s work.
As an undergrad at Salisbury University in Maryland, McGraw was heavily involved in student activities. That experience combined with his master’s degree in higher education administration from Syracuse University prompted him to seek a job in education. He was drawn to Haverford because of the students' dedication. “When Haverford says its students are extremely active, it’s true. That’s shocking and refreshing.”
Active may be an understatement. From sports like rugby and alternative frisbee, to cultural organizations like the Asian Students Association and the well known a cappella groups, to Fords Against Boredom (FAB) (who plan weekend events like scavenger hunts and midnight bowling), Haverfordians enjoy myriad clubs. Part event planner, part counselor, McGraw guides them through it all. “It’s a one-person office and trying to be a resource for so many organizations is definitely a struggle,” he says. “I’ve been learning how to give my undivided attention to each group.”
He has nothing but praise for the students he works with. “Student leaders run these organizations and plan these phenomenal events.” McGraw’s favorite Haverford traditions are Customs—“It’s amazing to see all the work they do to welcome new students”— and Pinwheel Day, a spring afternoon when an anonymous do-gooder covers Founders Green with colorful, spinning pinwheels.
He describes FIG, the inventors of the popular Go Boards, a one-stop center for on and off campus news, events, blogs and pics, as one of the more unique organizations. McGraw also gives kudos to the sound crew, noting that the audio and video for all events is handled strictly by students, a rarity among colleges, while praising the student-run coffee shop Lunt Café, another unique endeavor.
You would think overseeing close to 150 groups would fill anyone's day, but he has even bigger plans for the SAO. “I want to get the heads of organizations to come together,” he says. In this digital age, when email is the primary means of communication, McGraw believes in the value of face to face sit-downs for exchanging information.
“I want to inspire students to think about what’s missing from their Haverford experience.” He would like to see what’s happening with student life at other colleges and transfer some ideas to Haverford. A non-Ford himself, McGraw brings an outsider’s perspective. To encourage students to look beyond the “Haver-bubble,” in the future he would like to subsidize off-campus day trips. So that students can experience firsthand all that the greater Philadelphia area has to offer.
A more ambitious endeavor is the newly minted leadership development program. The concept grew out of recurring requests to learn about effective leadership in various student surveys. Right now, it is an experimental college program. A small group of students meet once a week for a non-credit course that focuses on the question, What makes a good leader? Conflict resolution, group dynamics and interpersonal communication are just some of the theories participants hope to apply to improve their leadership skills. To further hone those talents, McGraw would like to partner with alumni relations to bring accomplished alumni to campus to speak with student leaders. “I’m always open to new ideas,” notes McGraw. It seems as long as he’s at the helm of the Student Activities Office, new ideas won’t be hard to find.
— Danielle Bullen