University of Iowa pushes for more participation in university-sponsored late-night events

Through a new staff position, the University of Iowa is working to get more students to participate in university sponsored late-night programming to offer alternatives to drinking.


Raquele Decker

Mara Cheney is seen in her office which is located in the IMU on Wednesday, November 20, 2019. Cheney works with the Office of Student Life at the University of Iowa.

Preston Hayes, News Reporter

Former University of Iowa graduate Mara Cheney will take on a new role as the late-night initiatives and assessment coordinator to push for more students to engage in late-night programming rather than alcohol-related events.

The new position was added as a part of the Office of Student Engagement and Campus Programs’ initiative to get more students and student organizations to offer these sorts of programs to UI students.

“This is a brand new position at the university,” Cheney said. “I think about it as three things. The biggest piece is assessment of late-night programs, then connecting with students to be able to provide them with resources. Finally, I have been engaging with students to have conversations about late-night programming. [Asking students things such as], ‘so, why do you go? Why do you not go?’ We can think about how we can reduce those barriers.”

Nellie Link, the associate director of Student Engagement and Campus Programs, said the purpose of late-night programming is to support the UI’s Alcohol Harm Reduction work, as well as promote the safety, health, and well-being of students by providing an alcohol-free environment in which students can engage with others and build community.

“We are taking a variety of approaches to help engage more students in late-night programming. We are conducting targeted focus groups to understand why students do or do not plan and participate in these programs,” Link said. “Additionally, we are implementing increased marketing to share information about the availability of resources, understanding of the purpose, and getting the word out.”

RELATED: UI boosting late-night programming as alternative to drinking on weekends

In fiscal 2018, 4,000 students attend late-night programs. So far this semester, there have been 2,203 unique visitors to late-night programming, Cheney said. Late-night programs are hosted from 10 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday nights, she said.

Cheney said she has been very active in having focus groups with student organizations in order to talk to them about their experiences with program planning and if they’ve considered participating in late-night programs.

Campus Activities Board is one of the student organizations that works closely with Cheney and the Office of Student Engagement and Campus Programs to create late-night programming events.

“Our goal is to create engaging, safe, inclusive, fun events, not only for the University of Iowa students but also for the community as a whole,” CAB Executive Director Katie Rasmuson said. “We hope that by coming to our events students can feel a sense of belonging and can hopefully make new friends and become more engaged on campus.”

Cheney said that, this fiscal year, her focus is on the student organizations that are planning activities. In the future, Cheney’s goal is to focus on departments or colleges that are hosting events, as well as continued outreach with student organizations so they know about the new funding opportunity.

“We have funding available,” Cheney said. “[Center for Student Involvement and Leadership] grant funding is the current name for it, and the late-night program funding is in the CSIL grant funding currently, but next semester it’s going to be its own separate thing, so I encourage any student organization to apply for that funding.”