Ways to connect this fall: Inclusive options with Student Life

Maren Blanchard once worried how she would connect with friends at U-M. 

For Blanchard, thoughts of maintaining her relationships and possibly forming life-long friendships in college conjured images of the stereotypical party culture often portrayed in pop culture. 

Not only has Blanchard found community at U-M, she now also plays a role in creating it. 

“My roommate and I attended UMix events my second year of college,” shares Blanchard, a fourth-year student in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. “We weren’t really into the party scene at that time, so it was nice to find a community where we could go get some food, do crafts, hang out and meet new people.”

Blanchard, a student planner for the Center for Campus Involvement (CCI), now organizes UMix events. A late night tradition at U-M, these free events are filled with activities, games, giveaways and food for students every other Friday night from 9 p.m. to midnight. CCI is a department within the University Unions, which is one of 27 Student Life units.

Most recently, Blanchard helped plan the Oct. 13 and Oct. 27 BooMix events, two Halloween-themed UMix events. 

“I want students to feel a sense of community and belonging. I know a lot of times if people don’t have a group of friends, and it can be really hard to put yourself out there,” Blanchard shared. “We have people come by themselves to UMix all the time. I see some people come by themselves one week and then come with the people they met the next time.”

BooMix is one of several events within Student Life where students can participate in festivities that aren’t centered around alcohol. Many choose not to drink for a variety of reasons (being under 21 years old, religious or cultural beliefs, illness, family history, in recovery, etc.) and having a substance-free space is important.

Upcoming events

Live in U-M Housing? Reference community newsletters, digital displays and flyers to see the many Halloween-themed events that your residence hall offers.

For students who choose to drink, there are a variety of resources available, including many offered by Student Life, that provide helpful strategies that can help limit negative consequences.

Student Life offers a variety of resources to help them celebrate Halloween, or other events throughout the academic year, safely. Events like BooMix  serve as a place for students to take a pause, make a plan and grab a bite.

“When I have planned past UMix events, I made sure to budget for a lot of food so that those that do go out drinking after could come and make sure to eat enough,” said Blanchard. “That way they also have a safer night.”

In line with the commitment to promoting safe and responsible celebrations, Student Life encourages a similar approach for Halloween.

“We want students to have a festive and fun Halloween,” said Laura Blake Jones, associate vice president for student life and dean of students. “The resources, services and programs available to students through Student Life are here to help them stay safe and show respect to their peers while celebrating.”

Student Life resources

Some holidays, like Halloween, can pose additional challenges that students may need to navigate. 

Partnerships led by Student Life, in combination with substance-free events, help cultivate a safe, inclusive campus community. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, students may interact with the Expect Respect team members as they are out and about campus promoting inclusivity and respect.

Expect Respect is a program in the Dean of Students Office that actively promotes the values of respect, diversity, equity and inclusion through events and workshops on campus. Through this initiative, students gain insights into social identities and cultural appropriation–which Student Life urges students to consider when celebrating Halloween.   

Uzo Nwauwa, a U-M graduate student in the School of Social Work and program assistant for Expect Respect, offers guidance for students on choosing a Halloween costume. “If your costume in any way imitates or references a culture or way of life that you can take off at the end of the night, and the individuals of that culture cannot, it’s not appropriate to wear and you should steer clear of it.”

Students, faculty and staff have the ability to influence community culture by reflecting on their own health and well-being, and supporting that of their peers.

“Having a program like this on campus is so important to me because it shows that this community as a whole cares,” shared Nwauwa. “With Expect Respect being a partnership among students, faculty and staff, it shows that everyone is responsible and capable of spreading kindness and respecting individual’s rights to be their authentic selves.”

Student Life, including units like the Center for Campus Involvement (CCI), Wolverine Wellness and the Dean of Students Office, is helping to reshape the narrative of college involvement by creating positive environments for students to build community and engage with peers.