Free hot dogs, watermelon and baked beans were served to hundreds of students on the Bayramian Hall Lawn Thursday, Aug. 27, to kick off a new school year with university President Dianne F. Harrison.
The Picnic with the President event gives students the opportunity to connect with Harrison and other school administrators on a more personal level.
“We have 42,000 students and over 4,000 staff, and what better way to meet each other?” said Carmen Ramos Chandler, director of media relations. “When your hands are covered in watermelon juice or beans, there’s no way you can be stiff.”
Members of the university’s faculty and staff volunteered to serve the hot dogs, beans, watermelon, chips and drinks to students and fellow staff members.
“Staff and faculty serve food to students,” said Anthony Bennett, activities assistant and event coordinator. “It is a fun and unique event, and faculty and staff are pretty excited to do it. I think that is something the university prides itself on — the commitment to serving the students.”
There were two opportunities for students to attend the picnic during the day, the first from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the second from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“I look forward to it every year,” said server Yolanda Greenhalgh of library special services.“Welcoming the students is important — extremely important — to [make] them feel comfortable and part of the campus family.”
Returning students, incoming freshman and transfer students enjoy the chance to meet the president, hear what she has to say about the university, and learn what she plans to focus on for the year.
“It is really cool to see the president of the university and hear what she has to say,” said Alyah Thomas, a returning CSUN student. “I know she, from what I heard, is a really cool lady, so getting the opportunity to be a student and see who runs our campus is really cool. “
Getting involved with campus events is what drew many to the gathering, said CSUN student Cristina Navarro. “It’s a great way to get involved; you learn about the president’s main points she wants to focus on for the university through the year.”
The tradition of meeting with students has been going on for over two decades, Chandler said.
It is Harrison’s fourth year participating in the event.
“It’s fun and nice to meet people. Everyone is in a good mood, even though it’s a little warm,” Harrison said. “This couple right here, these students, met each other last year at the picnic, and now they are boyfriend and girlfriend. They took a picture with me last year, and we just did a redo, so that was fun. There’s some traditions developing.”
Not only was free food offered at the event, there was also music playing the background, inviting participants to dance along. There were also tents set up with information about a few campus services.
After the evening picnic, other events were offered for students to attend.
“There is a movie right after the evening session and a soccer game,” Bennett said. “So if students want to go after, that’s pretty cool.”