Sarah Lazare first introduced Westfield State’s Planning Parties in 2016 as part of the Banacos Academic Center. These events are intended to help students learn organizational skills, such as how to plan for classes, study for upcoming tests, stay aware of their grades, and anticipate other various deadlines.
Lazare, Director of the Banacos Academic Center, provides materials to aid in the utilization of this goal. Distributed supplies such as worksheets, calendars, to-do lists, and bound logbooks are free for all of the students who attend. Refreshments are served to create a relaxed, friendly atmosphere for students, along with tables where students are encouraged to take a seat and begin to outline their coursework. By incorporating party elements and creating a relaxing atmosphere, Lazare hopes students can see planning and organization as pleasurable tasks instead of stressful or overwhelming.
Jason Brewster, an English major, says he routinely attends Planning Parties because it provides him a purposeful, integrated environment in which he is able to tackle his studies. “Being in a space where people are inherently productive helps me to focus,” he explains, preferring to attend the events in favor of working in a more secluded climate, where distractions can often feel louder than the quiet.
Because Planning Parties are a cohesive way for students and faculty to come together, life skills which will translate into students’ post-graduate career can be cultivated in a focused manner. The invaluable skills learned at such an event, like organization and productivity tracking, become part of their everyday experience as they go on to pursue other ventures, including endeavors which are extracurricular in nature.
Lindsay Towle ’07, the Access Support Coordinator for the Academic Center, describes Planning Parties as guides for how to coordinate in real-time. “When students have a lot going on,” she says, “one or two things get lost in the shuffle. Planning Parties help teach organization in that way.”
Towle also spoke about Banacos’ newer implementation of social media, primarily Instagram, as a way to draw more students into their functions. Because of COVID, many of the University’s functions have transitioned to be partly or fully online, and programs like the Banacos Academic Center are no different. By publicly announcing events such as Planning Parties on social media, students not already familiar with Banacos’ resources may catch wind of the gatherings due to social media and make the decision to go.
“COVID changed a lot,” Towle adds when elaborating on Banacos’ more recent marketing strategies. Due to the rise of social media campaigns, efforts to reach students of all varying accessibilities will be put into further effect in the hopes of garnering student attention.”