Lately, I have noticed a lack of student attendance at keynote speaker events, such as the Great Lives Lectures. It seems like these events are aimed at the University of Mary Washington community, yet the student attendance at these events is awfully low. I believe the school could remedy this problem by having more upbeat speakers come to visit.
The keynote speaker series is something that UMW takes pride in. One would think the attendance would be higher for these events due to the fact that they are right on campus, free and easily accessible. Talking to a few students, I realize that the speakers and subjects seem to be aimed at a much older audience than the student demographic.
“I think I would go to the keynote speaker events if there were people I actually had interest in,” said Romadon Stovall.
Maybe if the school would bring in speakers that are more relevant to our demographic, we could bring in some more students to the events.
I think the problem definitely does not reside in publicity or advertising. UMW does a great job of putting up those posters and getting the word out. The main problem is the content. Keynote speakers are a great thing to have on campus, but some further attention needs to be brought to the types of speakers and what UMW students will actually want to go see.
For example, some subjects in the Great Lives Lectures are not really effective at engaging the students. No one in my demographic has seen or can remember seeing Walter Cronkite on the screen. Winston Churchill is another individual that I just can’t picture students wanting to hear a lecture about. He might be interesting to history majors, but not to the wide audience of our student body.
For instance, if pop culture icons, such as Steven Colbert, came to speak, I believe it would hold a lot more interest for students. They need people that students could actually relate to. That’s not to say the speakers that we have are not interesting to some, but they seem to be very selective, and most chosen speakers appeal to a specific group.
Events like this have the potential to be very effective and rewarding. One option to draw in more students would be to focus more attention on topics being discussed by students themselves. If the subjects are such that students can relate to more easily, like social media, pop culture trends and fashions, they will have more of an interest in attending.
I realize that the school has a budget that they need to take into account. Yet, I think there are ways to work around this. The University could find a way to balance between pricey keynote speakers and ones that hold student interest.