During the month of April people all over the country observe National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world, celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. This April I invited Delaware’s Poet Laureate Dr. JoAnn Balingit to visit campus and do a reading of her poetry. Dr. Balingit is an award-winning poet who works with the Delaware Division of the Arts to bring poets and poetry to Delaware audiences, and to support Delaware’s writers. I love having her on campus because she really connects well with our students.
I thought it might be useful for me to talk about the steps involved in bringing a speaker to campus. Below are the steps, and I hope they might help you enrich your students’ experience here on campus.
1. Locate a speaker with a connection to our curriculum and community.
Reach out and see if she or he is willing to come to campus. Talk to the speaker about the needs and interests of the students and how the speaker might address those needs. In my case, I reached out to the Poet Laureate in the fall, several months before my proposed event. I suggested she talk about her process of writing.
2. Find a time. Here some things to think about.
When do you want the speaker to come?
In the case of JoAnn Balingit, I wanted her to come sometime in the month of April, because of National Poetry Month. I had several other activities scheduled for Poetry Month that I need to keep in mind such as the publication of Delaword, our student anthology, and a trip with students to Walt Whitman’s house and grave. I was able to narrow the proposed time down to the third week of April, and I asked Dr. Balingit to give me a few days that week that worked for her. You might also consider what students will be working on at different parts of the semester and invite the speaker at a time which supports student achievement in their classes.
What else is going on here on campus?
There is always a lot going on, so I checked with Mike McCloskey, the student life counselor, to find options for days which wouldn’t conflict with other initiatives on campus.
What time of day would be best?
I spoke to my chair, Liz Kelleher, and we looked at the master schedule to determine the best start time to give the greatest number of students access to the speaker.
Is there a room available?
Check to make sure a large enough room is available. In my case, I found several dates which worked and then checked with Donna Wilson, who schedules the conference room, to ask if there was a room free on those days.
3. Will the speaker need remuneration?
Lots of speakers are willing to share their time for free. I had Dr. Goldstein from University of Delaware come to speak to one of my classes this term, and he was willing to do so for free. In the case of the Poet Laureate, the Delaware Division of Arts subsidizes her appearances, but she did require a small honorarium. I worked with a student club, the Reading Society, to secure the funds. This generally takes a few weeks, so make sure to do this ahead of time.
First, get the appearance approved by the student life counselor. On my campus, that was done via web form.
Then, ask your speaker for an invoice.
Lastly, you will need to get an internal disbursement form from the business office. Submit this form with the invoice and the appearance approval to the business office. You should indicate if you want the check sent to the speaker or if you’d like to pick up the check in order to give it to the speaker on the day of the event. This form needs to be signed by the Dean of Instruction, but the business office will forward it.
Make a flyer, and get it approved by the Dean of Student Affairs office for posting on campus. Post the flyer. Don’t use tape on the painted walls.
Fill out a request for an announcement on the portal page. The link is right on the portal page itself.
Fill out a request for an announcement on the digital signage which runs around campus. This request form is listed in MYDTCC > Resources > Request Forms & Workorders > Marketing and Public Relations.
On the same page, if you wish, you can also request a press release and indicate if you’d like someone to come take photographs.
Follow up with Marketing on these steps two or three weeks before the event because they are incredibly busy.
5. Invite someone to introduce your speaker.
Kathy Friel, Dean of Instruction for our campus, was kind enough to introduce the Poet Laureate. I worked with her to get some introductory remarks together, and I think her cheerful presence began the event on the right note.
6. Talk to the speaker about what he or she will be presenting.
In the case of this event, Dr. Balingit sent me a list of poems she would read and I made a program for the event.
7. A day or two before your event…
Email colleagues to remind their students of the event, perhaps encouraging them to offer extra credit to those students who attend.
Check on the room.
Tell public safety you will have a guest on campus and arrange special parking if necessary.
(Optional) Buy the speaker a small gift as a token of your appreciation: a plant, some flowers, a Del Tech mug full of chocolate–something of this nature.
8. The day of the event
Meet the speaker at the entrance to campus and escort him or her to the venue.
Make sure the speaker has water and perhaps a box of tissues.
Hopefully this will serve as a checklist to help you bring more people on campus, enriching your students’ experience and strengthening our college’s connection to the community.
Thanks to Kathy Friel, Liz Kelleher, Mike McCloskey, Kim McFetridge (faculty advisor for the Reading Society), Tammy Patone (in the Business Office), Donna Wilson (room scheduling), and Vassili Kormalos (Marketing and Public Relations) for their help. Without the help of all of these people, I would not have been able to bring the Delaware Poet Laureate here to campus to talk to our students.