Pitch a tent and they will come

IMU combines the Volunteer Fair, the Student Organization Fair, and the Housing Fair to create Fair Day

Story by Caitlin Scott

The IMU hosted its biggest fair yet on January 24, 2013 when it combined the Volunteer Fair, the Student Organization Fair, and the Housing Fair into one.Though there may have not been a literal tent in the IMU, the fair-inspired atmosphere could be felt throughout the entire building.

“The fair idea is really fun,” said Eric Rossow, Administrative Services Coordinator for the Division of Student Life. “Where else are you going to get cotton candy in Iowa City in January?”

The event featured snow-cones, cotton candy, hot chocolate, and airbrush trucker hats free of charge, as well as other various building specials.The building-wide feeling created by the large Fair Day energized students and created a lasting impression on many — especially the off-campus housing vendors, who experienced increased traffic to their booths according to Penny Kaelber, Coordinator for Campus Information.

“Our feedback from the evaluation that we gave each of the participating vendors was absolutely great,” Kaelber said. “The vendors commented with things like ‘we would love to come back, keep it part of the all fair’, because numbers were a lot better.”

The Student Organization Fair, the Housing Fair, and the Volunteer Fair were previously held as separate events, which proved to be a particularly problematic format for the housing fair.

“There was lower attendance during the housing fair last year and we just thought about what it would be like if we had all three [of the fairs] together because really wanted to drive traffic to all three,” Rossow said.

The Volunteer Fair and the Student Organization Fair supply students with information on ways to engage in the UI community, but the housing fair also offers students valuable resources that they may be unaware of. UI Off Campus Housing Services provide free lease review, resources for tenant-landlord issues, assistance in finding roommates and other services as well.

Fair Day will likely continue as an event in the future as the changed format received positive feedback according to Rossow.

“I definitely think this year was a success,” Rossow said. “We did a lot of planning and that paid off. We did have some trouble early on getting traffic upstairs but I think that can be worked out, even with more signage.”

Student were surveyed during Fair Day and, according to Rossow, the assessments show very positive feedback. 117 students were surveyed and on average, they ranked the event as a 4.5 out of 5. The majority of the students who attended were sophomores and juniors, which Rossow thought was a promising statistic.

“We are currently talking about hosting the Volunteer Fair, Organization Fair, and maybe the Campus Job Fair altogether in the fall,” Rossow said. “I think that we really like the concept [of the combined Fair Day] because it’s affordable and having it during the first syllabus week, [students] are learning about classes so they have a little more time to come to things.”

The Division of Student Life is continuously looking for ways to improve communication to students and Kaelber thinks that Fair Day is a step in the right direction.

“It’s just getting people down here to see what’s available and what is offered in this building is always an ongoing priority for all of us,” Kaelber said.