(Ohio Northern University Photo)

The faculty and staff are in the process of creating, analyzing, and reviewing the strategic analysis of the university. A broad topic to process, but required in order for the university to strengthen itself. In the mix of it all, the subject to analyze Ohio Northern in regards to student life, in and outside the classroom, has initiated many conversations, including the claim that Ohio Northern is a suitcase college. 

So what really is a “suitcase college”? Well, if you try to search for a definition in Google, you will see many different variations of the same definition. A suitcase college is where a majority of students at a university will leave campus on the weekends to go home. 

To the contrary of what some may assume, many answered “no” to the question, “Is Ohio Northern a suitcase college?” This included: Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Adriane Bradshaw, Director of Student Involvement Mrs. Jennifer Lambdin, Assistant Director of Student Involvement and Student Activities Coordinator Mrs. Shelby Turner, and two fourth-year Pharmacy students Hannah Blake and Olivia Bowser.

Yet, Dr. Adriane Bradshaw did convey that “there are enough students that leave on weekends that it’s noticeable. The campus climate or atmosphere on some weekends is really subdued. So there is room for more life, more activities, so yeah, we could definitely grow.” 

If Ohio Northern is not a suitcase college, why is student life on the weekends nearly invisible? Well, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Bradshaw believes there are many reasons; she expresses that a good portion of the student body has to work, whether that is on campus, off-campus, or at home, that one-third of the student body is also a part of athletics and majority of their competitions are on the weekends, and if students are leaving campus it is may be due to long-distance relationships, hometown friends, or a need for a scenery change.

She adds, “Looking at the strategic planning process, we are not addressing whether ONU is a suitcase campus but looking at it as, what are students wanting? What are they looking for? What would allow them to spend more time together- in order to make a well-rounded experience for the students?” 

“Looking at the strategic planning process, we are not addressing whether ONU is a suitcase campus but looking at it as, what are students wanting? What are they looking for? What would allow them to spend more time together- in order to make a well-rounded experience for the students?” 

Dr. Adriane Bradhsaw

In the opinion of two fourth-year pharmacy students, Hannah Blake and Olivia Bowser, students who leave are either freshman students who haven’t found their niche yet or students who will always be suitcase students. They believe the older you become, the more you become involved; therefore, you stay on campus more than you would have originally. Consequently, is it a possibility to encourage more students to be involved on campus if it means they will be on campus more?

To boot, Lambdin and Turner in the Student Involvement Office offer a unique point of view since they directly work with students and student organizations every day. Turner notes that while working with the Student Planning Committee (SPC) if it is engagement activities students are looking for as to a reason to stay on campus, she is constantly cautious not to burn out her students by adding more events. She states, “SPC feels that burden because they are constantly the students that are hosting everything on campus.”

“SPC feels that burden because they are constantly the students that are hosting everything on campus.” 

Shelby Turner

She discusses this because students in SPC are also super involved with many other organizations on campus, so they not only assist SPC in hosting events but as well as the multiple other organizations they are members of. To which Turner goes on to mention that many SPC students carefully plan out their days and weeks down to the minute with specific calculations of when they have time to study and/or do homework outside of their organizations. 

On that account – Are Ohio Northern students so academically and organizationally involved they are overwhelmed by what they do during the week that they use the weekends for themselves?

Is this preferable? 

Would it be better to have a slightly less involved campus if it meant we had a more active campus over the weekends? 

(Ohio Northern University Photo)

Reiterating Dr. Bradshaw’s inquiry, “What are students wanting? What are they looking for? What would allow them to spend more time together- in order to make a well-rounded experience for the students?”

While Blake and Bowser are both involved in many student organizations, they acknowledge that even though they are on campus during the weekends, they still would not go out to events and instead relax. This offers the community to understand that more students on campus if that means they are keeping to themselves on the weekends, is maybe not the key. 

On the other hand, using engagement activities on the weekends to not only increase student numbers but also to improve upon the nearly invisible campus, Blake reflects on the dilemma. She realized that “…even if SPC were to exhaust themselves with hosting events on the weekends, the students who attend the events would be the same students who attend all of their events, and the students who leave on the weekends will continue to leave. Whereas the proposed solution would not be reaching the correct demographic.”

Flipping the analysis of Ohio Northern being a “suitcase college” completely on its head. The concept of recruiting more students to stay on campus would not guarantee a visible campus on the weekends. As well as, organizing enticing events on the weekends to increase student numbers would burn out the involved students, in addition to the events not being convincing enough for the students who leave to rather stay.

In the overarching consensus, the strategic planning process the university is taking part in could reflect on why students choose to do what they decide to do on the weekends instead of what they are doing.

(Ohio Northern University Photo)

ONU students, faculty, and staff are held to the highest standards of excellence, which can be used to examine why students do what they do on the weekends.

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