Brooks: School spirit needs a boost

Brooks: School spirit needs a boost

Shawn Brooks is the new Student Affairs Vice President

Eric Kieta, Copy Editor

Pitt-Johnstown Student Affairs Vice President Shawn Brooks has some big plans, many of which involve better connecting students to campus life.

Brooks, a Pittsburgh native, was the Pitt-Oakland Associate Dean of Students and Residence Life Director before accepting his position in March at Pitt-Johnstown.

Prior to his work with the University of Pittsburgh, Brooks held positions at St. Lawrence University (Canton, N.Y.), University of California at Los Angeles and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

“I spent a lot of time talking to students about what their experience is here, and how we could increase it,” Brooks said. “Some of the students with whom I spoke said they don’t feel as connected with this campus as much as other campuses.”

He said more can be done for students to feel as though they belong at Pitt-Johnstown. These observations were made from feedback he received from students, Brooks said.

“I don’t want students to ever say Pitt-Johnstown is where you can get a degree and then leave,” Brooks said. “Pitt-Johnstown is a potential gold mine between the natural resources and the human resources here.”

One program Brooks has been trying to revamp is the Real World Action Program. He said he wants to create an honorary society for students who complete the program.

“For students to better market themselves after their undergrad experience,” he said. “What we are trying to do is to keep our finger on the pulse of what will be important to employers.”

Brooks said that more events need to be created, or better advertised, to spark student interest at Pitt-Johnstown.

“We need to find ways to develop the kinds of programs and services for students to better connect here,” he said.

Athletics could use a boost in student support as well, he said. Part of the reason students may not get as excited about Pitt-Johnstown athletics, compared with other universities, could be due to lack of a football presence, according to Brooks.

“We don’t have a football team here. Football is a rallying point for students,” he said.

Finance and Administration Vice President Amy Buxbaum said athletics is an area of general responsibility for her.

She said that while some loyal fans attend a majority of athletic events, there could be some room for improvement.

“I always want to see more people at sporting events,” Buxbaum said. “There is definitely room to draw more fans to games and I believe that our move to the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference will help with that as we play more local rivals.”

The success of athletics also plays a role in the sale of University of Pittsburgh merchandise as opposed to students feeling disconnected from the university, according to Pitt-Johnstown Bookstore Director John Ziats.

He said that he estimates the bookstore sells about 40 percent Pitt-Johnstown merchandise, compared with 60 percent of Pitt-Oakland merchandise.

Brooks said he is always open to comments or suggestions.

“I think the important thing for students to realize is that they have an ally in this office,” Brooks said.