September, 2014 Issue

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Campus Activities Live!


Mansfield University of Pennsylvania is a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania and a part of the PA State System-Higher Education or PASSHE. While they do regular bookings of all types of performers in the mainstream campus demographic, they also have an impressive list of national artists who have graced their stage such as Ron White, Goo Goo Dolls, The Band Perry, Aziz Ansari and many more. Steve Plesac, Director of Student Activities and student programming, has been at Mansfield for 6 years and tells us more about the campus and its programming.

"We are located 25 miles from Corning, New York, which is very famous for CorningWare initially and now is the source of a vast majority of all LCD screens that are produced. We are also near Elmira, New York and Williamsport, Pennsylvania where the Little League World Series is held. We are a rural campus, in a small town in Tioga County."

All the PASSHE schools are liberal arts schools and Mansfield is known for a couple of popular majors. "Most of the PASSHE schools are known for their education programs, because the schools started as state teacher's colleges and then became universities. Beyond teaching degrees we are known for our very large music department. We have over 200 students in that program majoring in music which includes vocal chorus, music education, music technology in sound and lighting and production. We also have a marching band that could compete with just about any other college or university. The university takes a lot of pride in the band, which includes well over 200 members in itself. Music is a very large major here. We continually win titles with our chorus, which goes to competitions all over the U.S. and Europe."

There are benefits directly to the campus activities program as a result of this. "It works out great for me as Campus Activities Director, since we have such a talented student body and one of our most popular attractions is our open mic nights. Not only are they a great draw for the students, but it's an awesome way to stretch our budget and allow us to bring in more major concerts. Every Wednesday night we have an open mic night at The Hut, one of our venues that is sort of like a skichalet. It has built in lights and sound equipment, so everything is self contained and really easy to do on a regular basis.

The Student Activities Office has a healthy programming budget for the school's size, topping the $200,000 mark. "We have the means to program a wide variety of activities for students regularly. On Thursday nights we do a sort of live potpourri of things involving arts and entertainment. We do everything from live bands, hypnotists, jugglers and comedians to performing artists like cirque entertainers. Just in the next couple of weeks we have a former Cirque du Soleil performer, juggler Greg Kennedy, the band Brazilian Twins and comedy magician John Cassidy coming in. We have a hypnotist coming in and tribute acts tend to do well here. Country, alternative and hip hop are all popular here. Every Thursday students can count on a 9 o'clock show and we really try to make it a great variety of entertainment from week to week."

Every Tuesday is trivia night at one of the local restaurants which provides gift certificates for the event. "We usually get about 70- 100 students for team trivia on Tuesday nights. Then on Friday and Saturdays we do dance parties. We have two different sound systems, both flown, one for DJs and one for live acts, everything state of the art."

Of course Mansfield is also known for their large scale shows. "We have Ron White coming in for a second time in three years. We just had Aziz Ansari come in, which was a great buy for us. It has been really rewarding to book some of the acts we have in the past and see them go on to great national fame. I have been booking activities for almost 30 years, and it is a really cool feeling to book someone like Kevin Hart, who I booked right out of college himself just before he broke. He went from $40,000 to $250,000 almost over night. I have had many successes over the years of getting those kinds of opportunities. It is really just about doing the research, having a feel for what is trending and of course having some great relationships that I have built with the major agencies over the years. We never use a middle agent or buyer and I think that gives us a lot of room to breathe compared to having someone else do the work for us."

This school is a great example of one that balances and spreads their budget well, has a dedicated student body and a great sense of leadership in the activities department.

For more information on the programming done at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, contact Steve Plesac at Steve Plesac splesac@mansfield. edu.