Key Pearson and her first-year board buddy Grace Kim attending Fall Festival together last semester. Board buddies ensured students have someone they can go with to Board events. Photo courtesy of Hannah Kate Albach
Board Buddies returns for a second semester.
With the goal of reconnecting students after a time of isolation and increasing attendance at Student Programming Board events, senior event planner Hannah Kate Albach created Board Buddies this past summer. Faith Unruh, senior co-chair event planner, teamed up with Albach in the fall to help develop the program further.
“The initial inspiration for this program came from trying to fill that hole of the people who would want to go to Board events, but didn’t really feel like they had a place there,” Albach said.
Albach and Unruh said the program pairs seniors and juniors with second-years and first-years based on common interests to attend the Board’s events together and engage in other off-campus activities.
Program participants, like first-year Julia Johnson, said they had a chance to expand their horizons socially, because they were able to meet students in different years.
“It just definitely encouraged me to kind of step out of my comfort zone and meet new people and feel more comfortable with that,” Johnson said.
Signups for the Board Buddies program went up from 15 in the summer to 46 in the fall, Albach wrote in a Feb. 2 email to the Graphic. To sign up, students fill out an online form through the Board.
Infographic by Christina Buravtsova
“This is an opportunity for people who feel like they don’t have a solid community right now,” Albach said. “It’s also just an opportunity for people who feel like their groups have already been sort of established […] to meet new people and kind of get out of that box.”
Albach said upper-level students can benefit from taking part in the program as well.
“It’s also a good chance for upperclassmen to sort of mentor younger students that they may have not had the chance to meet yet,” Albach said.
Senior Aaron Ekenstam said the mentorship aspect of the program inspired him to become a member of Board Buddies. As a Thousand Oaks local, Ekenstam was not only able to expose his two lower-level buddies to the Pepperdine community, but also to the surrounding community.
“I thought it’d be pretty cool to kind of share what I know about Malibu, Pepperdine and stuff in general with younger students,” Ekenstam said. “It’s nice to kind of have the mentor-mentee kind of dynamic because it’s also something that you’re going to be using in the real world.”
Johnson, one of Ekenstam’s groupmates, said she appreciated having older students in her group who could show her the ropes of being on campus.
“It’s nice to have people who have already gone through different parts of what I’m going through right now and I can hear about their experiences and learn from that,” Johnson said.
Unruh and Albach said they structured the program this way to provide students who aren’t involved with other on-campus organizations a chance to experience mentorship.
“In Greek life there’s the big-little kind of situation which is super fun, but if you don’t have that […] then it can be kind of intimidating to navigate the whole Pepperdine atmosphere,” Unruh said. “This could almost be like big-little for the Board.”
Senior Key Pearson, who also mentored two Board Buddies students during the fall, said the program helps make the process of attending events more seamless.
“It definitely kind of helps people go to the Board events which you always have fun at,” Pearson said. “[The challenge is] just getting yourself to go or who do you go with.”
However, the Board Buddies are not limited to attending the Board’s events. Because Albach and Unruh made sure every group had at least one person with a car, many groups took to exploring beyond Pepperdine.
“We went to the beach and we went bowling and we went out to eat a lot,” sophomore Annika Huckeba said. “We did a ton of stuff off-campus together.”
Board Buddy groups could also win awards for spending time together. Each team would earn a point for doing an activity together and sending a picture to Albach and Unruh with a description of their experience. Teams with three or more points won a free sweatshirt for each of their members.
“We still have a lot more sweatshirts that we’re hoping to give away this semester,” Albach said.
Both graduating this spring 2022, Albach and Unruh said they hope a new set of Board members will take on expanding this program and solidifying it as a Board tradition because of its importance to community building.
“I would love to just see bigger numbers,” Unruh said. “But honestly, at the end of the day just people actually finding that community that they’ve really been seeking for because I know how lonely it can get to be out here by yourself.”
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