On Wednesday, August 29, the off-campus division of the Office of Residential Education hosted its first Off Campus Student Fair. Various local businesses, as well as many of the departments at RPI participated in the event, and an estimated 400 students attended the event. The fair was also open to students who currently live on-campus but are thinking of living off-campus.
According to Associate Dean of Off Campus Commons Cary Dresher, the idea for the fair originated during one “Division Retreat” for the multiple divisions of Student Life. During this retreat each section of Student Life described their plans for the following academic year. Dresher mentioned that, after the Archer Center gave its presentation, his division realized they hadn’t held any large events for off-campus students. As a result, they decided to work with the Archer Center to develop the fair.
There were two purposes for the fair, said Dresher. The first was to familiarize off-campus students with the local attractions, as well as the departments on-campus that can enhance their experience while at Rensselaer. The other was to encourage students to visit businesses in Troy. The hope was that if students visit these businesses, then more stores will open; students will benefit from the increase in products, and businesses will see an increase in profits.
Dresher also expressed his satisfaction with the advertisement and marketing of the Off Campus Student Fair. Members of ResEd placed numerous posters around campus, sent out e-mail notifications, and spread awareness through Concerto, a “free, web-based broadcast medium for digital announcements,” which is run and maintained by the Student Senate’s Web Technologies Group.
Despite the active advertisement, Dresher said that there were still concerns regarding attendance at the fair. He added that it was especially concerning when it came to convincing local businesses to attend. This was compounded by the fact that the fair was held from noon to 3 pm on a Wednesday. As it was the first ever Off Campus Student Fair, Dresher and his team were unable to provide the businesses with estimates as to how many students would be at the fair. Dresher stated that many of the business owners weren’t sure if it was worth leaving their stores during business hours.
To encourage student attendance—thereby providing the local businesses with an incentive to participate in the fair—Dresher contacted several banks and other donating bodies to ask if they would be willing to sponsor the event and provide funding for a raffle. They consented, and Dresher’s team was able to acquire prizes that included two iPads, one of Google’s Nexus 7 tablets, hockey tickets, and gift certificates to restaurants and stores around Troy. Students were required to visit at least twenty vendors to qualify for the raffle.
The event was going to be held inside the Rensselaer Union, said Dresher. However, on the Monday before the fair, his team decided to hold it on the patio outside the Union. This, among many other factors, he said, probably helped the success of the event.
A total of 34 groups participated in the fair. These included restaurants, a comic book store, the group in charge of Troy Night Out, the Troy Police Department, the Capital District Transportation Authority, the Student Health Center, Environmental and Site Services, the Department of Public Safety, and the Graduate Studies division of the Office of Admissions, among others.
According to Dresher, the Off-campus Student Fair was “a huge success.” He added that he received a great deal of positive feedback from both students and businesses. The students expressed excitement about several businesses that they “didn’t even know about,” said Dresher. One such business was Finbar’s, a restaurant which recently opened in Troy. At the same time, many of the businesses were impressed with the number of students who showed interest in their wares.
Dresher mentioned that the expected turnout for next year’s fair would be even higher, both for students and businesses. For more information about the businesses in Troy, interested students can participate in the next Troy Night Out. To learn more about next year’s Off Campus Student Fair, contact Dresher at email@example.com.