Martin Kelly talks Student Life at UFV

Martin Kelly discusses what Student Life’s all about, what his role is, and what he’d like to see more of on campus



By Joe Johnson (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: August 21, 2012

Who are you? What’s your story?

I was invited here on a temporary basis because orientation was changing. Orientation is kind of a new concept, maybe 15 years in the post-secondary scheme of things. So everybody’s been developing it like crazy, it’s become something that’s mandatory. It didn’t be as such. And so they were looking for something to spice it up to make it not just university, and not just talking heads – something interesting. So they called me in as kind of a specialist to kind of spice it up, give it some fun and flair and whatever.

… Because I was trying to make a living doing balloons and being a clown and doing children’s festivals and stuff, and by the time our third child was born, it’s really hard to raise three kids being a fool, like get enough money do that. Just about impossible, and my wife had just suffered long enough, and her work was worse than … So it seemed like a good time to, well it’s my turn to hit the salt times. That’s how I got here.

Okay, so what’s Student Life all about?

Student Life is all about engagement. It’s always, always been about engagement … because the big picture mission statement of Student Life is to create a vibrant campus life. A small department can’t do that by just putting on events. So in real short order it became obvious if you want to build a vibrant campus life you have to find out what the students want to do and then enable them to do it. Enable others to act, rule number one. If you’re doing it yourself, you’re failing.

If students are engaged and if they are connected, especially if you get them in the first six weeks when they come back—which is why this all revolves and starts out with orientation—if you get them in the first six weeks so that they start to know other people there, so that they have less stress when they go into mid-terms in week six, so they’re not eating Kraft Dinner exclusively by week six, or any other things that can go wrong, the attrition rate drops dramatically.

What are some of the programs and services that you provide?

Orientation is certainly the biggest one and the only one that’s considered an institutional event, nothing else we do is considered an institutional event which is pretty amazing. The welcome backs and the orientations have gone from orientation here to now we have orientations in Chilliwack and Abbotsford in the fall semester and the winter semester. We now have parent orientations, fall and winter, on both campuses. And within those it’s further expanded to have a mature student orientation.

We do the volunteer recognition which I think is really important to recognize students and their achievements and what they’ve done.

We do as much as we can … the intramural program. And it’s up to us to dole that [time] out fairly and equitably to students that want to do it. We hold tournaments four or five times a year. We try to make the campus rec not just for sportsters but fun but active things. Like Humans vs. Zombies, that’s campus recreation if you can get 80 students running around for four hours that would not otherwise be caught in a gym. You’ve got to keep students active. It’s like the curling bonspiel …

Is it rewarding?

Working with students is extremely rewarding. Working with students is the only thing that keeps me here. Let’s just say, for press purposes, it’s a little bit of a square-peg/round-hole situation for me in an institution. My career path is somewhat limited.

What are some of the challenges with your role?

The challenges are working in an institution with institutional rules. It’s very, very difficult. The challenges are really not with the students. The challenges are [in] not understanding the rhyme or reason for what decisions get made.

… Don’t ever do this job for the money, not ever.

If you weren’t working with students, what would you be doing?

Playing guitar. Putting on really fun events for no money, that’s what I would be doing.

Can you tell me some things about UFV that new students, or even students in their last year, may not know?

Yes, if they didn’t get themselves engaged they missed out. They missed out because you will absolutely—20 years from now completely—forget about what happened in the English 101 class but you will still know people 20 years from now, if you’re engaged, that are going to be very good friends that will take care of you 20 years from now. Get engaged. You have to get engaged.

What else don’t they know? The door that you think you need to go through, to get the answer you seek, that looks like the right door, is often exactly not the right door to go through. So if you want friendly advice, come and see me, find me in my hovel, and I will not lie to you.

How can students become involved?

Read The Cascade newspaper. Find out what’s going on. Engage, go to your association. If you’re in a department, you’re in an association. You’re paying the money to Student Union, get involved with Student Union.  Stop bitching. You’re paying for it, $4.50 a semester for The Cascade, $3.00 for CIVL radio, the Student Union fees, use it damnit.  Come to University House. You want to find out what’s going on, come to the University House. Go to the Student Life Facebook page, UFV Student Life. Just check it out, and even if you don’t use 80 per cent of what’s on there, 20 per cent you’ll go “ahhh, come to a community dinner, Humans vs. Zombies.” Get your name on my email list which you can ask to do that…if you want to get emails about the scuttlebutt of what’s going on. Send me an email and I’ll add you to the list.

I hear there’s a foosball table in the U-House?

There’s a foosball table at U-House which is going to go away in favour of a much better table because it squeaks like a sun of a gun and drives you crazy to play.

…And there’s an air hockey table. And in Chilliwack there’s a pool table, and there’s ping pong tables on both campuses. Good ones. And there’s a cupboard full of whacky games you used to play from your childhood.

Any other crazy things that goes on around the University?

There’s guerilla gardening. Humans vs. Zombies is pretty crazy. I really like Halloween week which is pretty crazy where we do trick-or-treating for UNICEF and horrify the administration. That’s fun, that’s good. We always do well because we go as a bunch of zombies and ghouls and we don’t go until they give us money for UNICEF – the little orange boxes.

When student groups get involved. BCSA blew up a pumpkin last year in the backyard, we never asked for permission on that. Don’t roast marshmallows without permission. We do sleepovers at U-House which is very fun.

Crazy … not nearly enough in my humble opinion. Yeah, there should be a lot more of that.


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