Bicentennial committee seeks increased student input

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 8:44pm

As the University of Michigan begins its bicentennial celebration, organizers aim to convey the powerful impact its past and present students have had on society through a year of events, planned by the Bicentennial Office.  

This past fall, the Bicentennial Student Advisory Committee — comprised of 36 students from all three University campuses — formed to ensure student involvement in the planning of bicentennial festivities. The committee serves as a sounding board for the Bicentennial Office's events and activities and assists with student outreach activities.

Bailey Oland, Bicentennial Student Initiatives coordinator, emphasized the importance of getting students connected with the bicentennial planning, as she claimed most students on campus do not understand the relevance of the bicentennial to their own lives.

“We want to make sure we have students engaged, we want to make sure students are interested, and so we want to make sure students know what’s going on,” Oland said. “We found out that, through our interactions, students have no idea what’s coming up and so we really wanted to make sure we had a channel of communication and a way to get students involved, and knowledge of what’s happening.”

As an alum and former member of the University marching band, Oland said she feels a special connection to the University and the spirit she felt during her time as a student. Due to this connection, she led the group in participating in a number of activities, such as making a video about the bicentennial for the homecoming pep rally and passing out bagels and T-shirts in Mason Hall.

Nursing sophomore Olivia Darany said she thinks the amount of diverse perspectives on the committee aid benefits students.

“With both graduate and undergraduate students representing almost every school and college across campus, there's a lot of great perspectives and always a lot of brainpower in the room,” Darany said. “Last semester we spent a lot of time brainstorming the best ways to disseminate information about the bicentennial, since we really just wanted to focus on getting the word out about what would be coming in 2017. Now that it's officially the bicentennial year, meetings are more geared towards discussing the actual festivals and events and how to make sure they draw crowds and are memorable.”

Engineering senior Azia Harris-Martin further explained the importance of having a diverse committee, and how it inspired her to get involved with the planning of the bicentennial and ensure her voice was heard.

“I by no means speak for the Black population at Michigan, but wanted to ensure that the voice of people that look like me were at least represented,” she said. “Although this isn't the bicentennial of the Black student at Michigan, I am a proud Wolverine and I am honored to have an impact on such a momentous occasion.”

The committee worked closely with faculty to plan numerous events for the upcoming year. Darany said she is most excited for the finale of the bicentennial celebration that is set to occur in the fall, and she highlighted interesting events, like a time capsule launch — organized by the Michigan Bicentennial Archive — happening before then.

“Something else really cool is being carried out by M-BARC — they're recording thousands of interviews of current students and faculty and sending them all up to space in a time capsule,” Darany said. “But what I really can't wait for is the finale of the bicentennial next fall. There's going to be a huge expo in the Diag with exhibits that feature departments, schools and student orgs from all three campuses, and it's all capped off by HAIL storm, which is a light show projected onto the facade of Rackham Hall.”

Faculty and students alike concluded it is important to acknowledge the role of students in shaping the University into what it stands for today, and make them feel included in the bicentennial celebration.

“The bicentennial is really about students,” Oland said. “Without students, we don't have a university.”