When students first step onto the University of Iowa campus their first year, it is an explosion of new experiences and day-to-day learning opportunities. First Hawkeye football game. Eating lunch on the Pentacrest lawn. Cramming for those first midterm exams in the Main Library. All these touchpoints shape the academic life of UI students.
It is the hope of Hancher leadership that these students will make the university’s world-class performing arts venue part of their time at Iowa – a goal I strongly believe in, and my primary focus as Hancher’s audience development and student engagement intern this summer
A key piece of the campus and Iowa City community, Hancher has a rich tradition of adding to the social and cultural vibrancy for all who enter its doors. Which is why the loss of the original Hancher due to the devastating 2008 flood was such a blow to two generations of students who missed out on experiencing the best of the performing arts on campus.
As part of my work with the public engagement team, it is my task to brainstorm and implement best practices and actions to engage the student body in a way that motivates them to make Hancher events part of their busy schedules. But, how does this happen?
One way is to increase the visibility of Hancher to students. Hence, August’s “Hancher is for Hawkeyes” open house. In its second year of operation, Hancher is for Hawkeyes is an opportunity to show new and returning students that Hancher is not simply a building across the river. It is theirs, and not in some abstract way. Hancher is a place where students experience great art; a place where they expand their worldview from new vantage points. Over 200 students make up the box office staff, ushers, and production teams. Hancher is for students.
On Aug. 29th, students will get to tour the facility, getting a behind-the-scenes view of how a celebrated performing arts center operates. They will get to learn about programming and educational opportunities that can transform their time at Iowa, moving from the theoretical into the experiential and practical. Finally, they will be able to buy or win discounted tickets to the entire 2019-2020 season. Because, after all, Hancher wants them in the seats. Hancher needs the perspectives and opinions of what shapes the diverse campus community. And that starts with students.
During the summer, I will also be conducting research, scouring through research articles, trade publications, and most importantly, reading responses from student surveys. My hope is that this initial research project will form the basis of a continued emphasis on an important question: How can Hancher become as student-centered as possible, while focusing on holistic power of the arts for a diverse student population?
Hancher does not solely belong to the select few able to afford tickets. It belongs to the entire University of Iowa community, including students. My job this summer is to expand Hancher’s footprint in student engagement. I am eager to see what is possible.