Students who have been to a campus event in recent years are likely to have encountered the welcoming smile of Sara Thomas. A third year communication student, Thomas’ life was changed when she started work as a programming assistant for the Student Involvement and Leadership Center (SILC), a job that requires her to help create and host staple events on campus, such as Splatter Party and Spring Fling.
Now in her second year at SILC, Thomas hopes to pay it forward by helping others find a sense of community at Boise State and make the most out of their college experience.
“I started as a programming assistant last year, and I had no idea what I was really getting myself into,” Thomas said. “I like planning events, but I didn’t know how much fun it would be and the relationships that I would build from it.”
With SILC hosting a total of 53 events last year and 30 more planned for this semester alone, the programming assistants are integral in ensuring programs run smoothly.
“Ideas start at our proposal meetings, where we all go through and propose three to four events, ranging from social-driven to more service-oriented,” Thomas said. “We all get to have a say in whether this is reflecting the mission of Student Involvement, and then we get assigned to different events discussed. This semester I was assigned five events, and especially with recurring events that students may have been to in the past, I try to think how can I make an event still exciting for students to go to.”
With months of planning, it is actually seeing events like Spring Fling come together that gives Thomas a sense of pride, as well as a reminder for why her passion lies in programming.
“In a general sense, people having a smile on their face and seeing that what we are doing is making them happy means so much to me,” Thomas said. “It’s amazing the impact I have seen these events have on students. For example, at an open mic night, I encouraged a nervous girl to sign up and sing and, afterwards, she thanked me so much for pushing her outside of her comfort zone and how happy she was for doing it.”
Campus Programs coordinator Mikayla Mitzel commends Thomas for the passion she brings to every project worked on and the personal growth Mitzel has seen.
“When Sara came in, she was very shy, and the programming assistant job requires you to step out and chat with students to make them feel warm and welcomed at events,” Mitzel said. “Now this being her second year, she just jumps right in and is willing to take on a leadership role, she knows the job, and knows that she needs to be there and chat with everyone.”
Allowing students professional development opportunities are not the only benefit to hiring students, according to Mitzel.
“Programming assistants really allow the students to have a voice in the programs that are being proposed for themselves,” Mitzel said. “This team of students really help to say what the university culture wants to be and what the students want to see come to life.”
Director for the Student Involvement and Leadership Center Charlie Varland, appreciates Thomas’ approach to her work, particularly in understanding how such student activities contribute towards a sense of connection, community and belonging on campus.
“Events like a movie night or splatter party are generally fun and exciting things for students to go to,” Varland said. “But at the same time, they are important to the university because it creates a vibrant campus life where students really feel a sense of community and feeling that Boise State is their home, that they belong here.”
SILC strongly believes a sense of belonging and mattering have a huge impact on college students, linking involvement on campus to various levels of success over their college career.
“When students get involved, they’re more likely to be retained, persist and do better academically,” Varland said. “I think Sara is a part of a dynamic team of student leaders and employees that is doing really good work here on campus, and I believe that Boise State and the sense of campus community that we have is better because of the great work that Sara and her team does.”
Although Thomas has grown herself in creating the well-known events people on campus know and love, she hopes students will take advantage of opportunities to get involved themselves.
“Get an idea for what you’re interested in, and try to do things outside your comfort zone, because it will have the biggest payoff,” Thomas said. “I know there’s something here at Boise State for everyone’s interest that they can really, truly love.”