On Wednesday, May 1, in the Squires Commonwealth Ballroom, a light shone through the impending finals-week clouds: free massages, smoothies and flavored oxygen were available to students as part of the Virginia Tech Union’s annual Relaxation Station event. Making it all happen were the Virginia Tech Union’s hardworking student leaders. Consisting of 11 full-time student staff members, VTU puts on similar student-oriented events throughout the year, from big-name concerts to Mardi Gras-themed roller rinks. None of it could happen without huge amounts of work — and, of course, passion.
All of VTU’s events are planned with the help of the general student body. “Our events are very student-driven,” said Max Rooke, a junior geography major and VTU’s director of special events. “Everything is a lot closer to the student body than people realize.”
Some of those events, like the Relaxation Station, are traditional, and planning begins with a defined framework in place. Others, like the Mardi Gras roller rink, are born from committee ideas. “We thought of ‘Let the Good Times Roll,’ and then we thought, ‘roller skating,” Rooke said. . “I try to have student input, because I know that the things I want to do are not necessarily what everyone else wants to do.”
Concerts also have more of a defined planning framework. Junior communications major Tyler Blankinship currently serves as VTU’s director of concerts. “Students select the artists (that come),” he said. “They just shout every idea they have.”
After collecting student input, Blankinship gets in touch with potential artists, agencies and managers, and things start to come together from there. Their largest annual musical event is Soundfest, a festival that took place on April 27 this year.
“It takes seven months to plan,” Blankinship said. “There’s the obvious, like ‘Who’s gonna play?’ But we also have to organize everything right down to where the porta-potties are going to go.”
Though events like Soundfest require an intense amount of planning, the payoff is worth it. “I never thought I’d (help) plan a music festival,” Rooke said. “Standing at the back of the festival and looking out at everyone, I just thought, ‘I can’t believe we put this on.’ It’s cool to see the direct impact.”
Another perk that VTU’s student leaders enjoy is meeting some of the guests that they bring to the university, from rapper Gucci Mane to electronic music duo Matt and Kim. To VTU’s members, though, that perk is only the tip of the iceberg.
“We do a lot for the school,” said Michael Esquivel-Lieb, a junior building construction and real estate major and VTU’s incoming Vice President of Membership Development. “But we do it because we enjoy it.”
“It’s not work if you love what you do,” said sophomore Connor Bartal, a computer science major and VTU’s incoming Director of Graphic Design.
If other students would like to get involved with VTU, Rooke recommends attending their monthly general body meetings, signing up for their email listserv, and keeping up with their social media accounts. No contribution is too small. After all, Rooke said, “Every event starts with an idea.”