Friday’s impending winter storm did not stop students from testing their skills at the poker table in the “Rams to Riches” Casino night.
The faux gambling event is part of a series of events hosted by the Homecoming Committee that lead up to the “Reign of the Rams” 2010 Homecoming Feb. 3.
“We always have a Friday night event just to bring everyone together,” said Lauren Hilliard, a junior homeland security and emergency preparedness and criminal justice double major and Entertainment Chair for the Homecoming Committee.
Hilliard said no real money was used but participating students were able to win prizes and one student walked away with the grand prize, a Nintendo Wii.
All event chair members of the Homecoming Committee were responsible for filling designated time slots. As the Entertainment Chair, Hilliard said she had to plan and organize four events for students: Homecoming Kick-off, Hot Wings and Karaoke, Casino Night and Gamers Only Day.
Director of the Homecoming Committee, Elisabeth Chop said planning the schedule of events for Homecoming is a year-long process for committee members, who begin the planning process in the fall based on student feedback collected in the spring, but the hard work pays off.
“I got involved in Homecoming my freshman year,” Chop said. “I had been to Tech, where my sister goes. I saw how much they love their school and I felt exactly the same way about VCU and that’s the way I demonstrated my affection for my school. It’s been my baby for about two years.”
Chop said as director she makes sure committee chairs fulfill their responsibilities, meet deadlines and all obligations for the University Student Commons and the University. Chop and committee chairs meet every Wednesday throughout the year and hold monthly meetings with faculty advisors.
The committee plans the Homecoming theme, schedule and guest artist for the Homecoming event based on student feedback, money and what is available, Chop said.
Justin Castonguay, the event coordinator for the Department of the University Student Commons and adviser to the Entertainment Chair, said he met with the students in the fall to hear their event plans.
“It’s their student money so it’s their decision and I kind of help it come into fruition,” Castonguay said.
Castonguay said once a schedule is hammered out, committee chairs will reserve rooms for events. At the time of the event the Student Commons’ staff will set up the room for vendors and the Homecoming Committee supervises the event.
Event funds come from the student activity fee, which all the student organizations pay and then divide among the six Program Commission Groups: Homecoming, The Activities Programming Board, Intercultural Fair, STRUT, Relay for Life and the Fall Block Committee.
The six student groups host multiple events throughout the year and submit a budget request to the Student Government Association to be allotted funding, Castonguay said.
“An event like this, casino night, is in no way catered to any particular group,” Castonguay said. “If we have a concert, you may or may not like the music or if we have a lecturer, you may or may not like the subject. This is just playing games, we have free food and prizes and everyone comes together for that.”
Benzon Huynh, a sophomore biology major, said he thinks the student-targeted event is a great way to meet friends and make new ones.
“To be honest, last time I lost all my money in an hour,” Huynh said. “I’m looking to have better luck this time.”
Zachary Rogers, a freshman vocal performance major, said the first casino night he attended was during Welcome Week and he attended Hot Wings and Karaoke Thursday.
“I saw a lot of people I knew,” Rogers said. “It’s just a fun way to meet people. I think it’s great that (VCU) has activities like this to do.”
Castonguay said in addition to raising school spirit and student involvement, the Department of the University Student Commons works with student organizations to offer a safe place to participate in activities.
“We’re here to monitor them,” Castonguay said. “We try to provide as many opportunities, as many diverse things that are fun to do so they stay here on campus.”
Castonguay said he has seen a rise in student attendance to Commons-sponsored events over the past two and a half years that he has been events coordinator. Many of the events like lectures and book clubs are meant to enhance the educational development of students and others are meant to take the stress away from classes.
Hilliard said she hopes the Homecoming events bring students together and gives them the opportunity to be a part of the VCU community.
“(Events) bring everyone together to celebrate the legacy of VCU,” Hilliard said.