Programming Ideas

While messing around with my blog settings last week, I came across the search terms that most frequently bring people to this site. It shouldn’t have surprised me that a lot of people come here by searching “Door Dec Ideas”. I did the exact same thing when I found out I was going to be an RA.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lot of door dec ideas. I liked the ones I did (interstate signs with the person’s name and direction their dorm room faced) but I never took any pictures and it was the only idea I ever had to come up with. I think some schools change up their decs every month/semester…but we didn’t.

If I can brag though, I did come up with some pretty great programs this year, so I can talk about that. But first, I can share some things I learned about running a successful program.

1) Marketing. Start early, and cover all your bases. Social media has made it so easy to reach your entire residence population, but you have to try to be a little more creative. Students get inundated with so much information, and the more that business and schools cotton onto the ease and relative affordability of social media advertising, the more this becomes true. It also means that your program can get lost in the constant updates. and that’s why you can’t forget to use posters. We would do stuff like a massive chalk drawing to promote programs, or we’d stick our posters in random spots, or put them upside down–anything to get people to pay attention.

2) Rounds are a great way to let people know about a program. It’s easy to ignore a poster you pass every day; it’s a lot harder to ignore a person standing in front of you, telling you about the AMAZING trip that’s happening next weekend. This is also how you can convey your enthusiasm in a way that goes beyond putting six exclamation marks behind an announcement for your movie night!!!!!!

3) Choose programming your community wants, but also choose programming YOU want. Remember that you’re a student too, and if you like something, you’ll likely find other people who like it too. The more you love an idea, the more you’re going to put into it, which ultimately makes a better program. And when it’s 2:00 AM and you’re making posters for your Doctor Who marathon, you’re less likely to curse your job if you’re genuinely excited for the program.

Onto the ideas! These are the seven programs I ran (or helped run) last year.

1) Self-defence: This was moderately successful. We had to change the location at the last-minute due to weather, so fewer people showed up. We got a female police officer in to teach self-defence for two hours. We made it clear that the program was open to everyone, not just women. Everyone who showed up had a great time and we all learned tons. I got to flip people over my shoulder, something I never thought I could do!

2) Girls Night: This was something I did when I realized that my floor wasn’t bonding as much as they could have. It was super simple to plan. We made mocktails, played Just Dance 2, did face masks, and then watched Bridesmaids. I asked one of the girls who had shown some enthusiasm to come up with an ice-breaker and it was honestly the most successful part of the night (this also worked out well because I hate running ice-breakers). It was super successful, and all of my girls told me later it was one of the best things we did on the floor.

3) Proofreading: This one was definitely a failure. I hosted it about 2 weeks before exams when everyone had papers due for this communications class that was almost universally mandatory for every first year program. I’m not sure if it was the timing, or we just didn’t advertise enough, but even though people said they would show up, no one did.

(The secret no one ever tells you about programming is sometimes it works out when it fails. My friend Natasha and I spent the whole two hours working on our papers instead, and we both got A’s. But don’t tell my boss.)

4) Positive quotes: This was honestly a program borne out of total laziness. I wanted to do a positive body image program, and by the end of November, I just ran out of time. Instead, I wrote out a bunch of my favourite quotes in colourful markers and posted them all around our building. I figured that at least staff members would get a kick out of reading them on rounds, but to my surprise the residents LOVED it. I have tons of people tell me that they were having a really bad day, or were super stressed, and coming across the quotes made them feel way better.

My favourite quote?

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

5) Santa Claus: Some of my best programs were ones I stole adapted from other people. This one started when my friend Brianna said she wanted to take her residents to see Santa. Someone else said we should get Santa to come to Res instead. I joked that we should get our boss to play Santa, and someone said that I would never in a million years convince him.

Challenge accepted.

He agreed, on the condition that our other boss dressed up like an elf. He reluctantly agreed, on the condition that I also be dressed like an elf. It was an awesome program. Brianna took pictures, and we charged $2 per person, or $1 with some canned goods for the food bank. We got so much food, so it was great charity event as well.

This was that staff picture we took:

Semester 2:

Therapy Dogs: I talked about this in an earlier post, and I can say it was the most successful program we did. My friend Whitney came up with the idea and I helped her execute. We knew that tons of resident missed their pets, and that dogs have been proven to make people feel better. It was so successful that we hosted it again closer to the end of the year.

The Hunger Games: Remember how I was talking about being enthusiastic about your program? This was a program I did because I was SO excited to see the Hunger Games I wanted to share it with other people who were just as enthusiastic. It was a great time, even though we had a small turnout. And I got to totally geek out with other Hunger Games fanatics.

Hallway Hunters: This was originally called “Marker Murder” but it was decided that “murder” was not something that should be promoted in residence, for some weird reason. The concept was adapted from a floor wars competition on my friend Ambre’s floor, where she gave every resident a Sharpie, with the goal that they needed to “mark” each other on the forearm in order to “kill each other”. She started it early in first semester and I think it was still going on into 2nd semester. We adapted ours so we were using clothespins, and we did it for our whole building. A great, low-cost programming idea that helps residents get to know each other.

Other programs: Some of the successful programs run by other RAs included going spelunking at some nearby caves, a trip to Medieval Times, a trip to Canada’s Wonderland for Halloween Haunt, a Disney Movie Marathon, and a great game my friend Ambre planned called “Zombie Island”.

If any new RAs have any questions about these programs, leave me a comment and I’ll give you as much information as I have. I still have posters for a lot of these programs saved, and I’d be happy to pass them along.

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