Increasing Student Participation in College Organizations

Increasing Student Participation in College Organizations

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Increasing Student Participation in College Organizations

Student participation in the annual Business Society Haunted House is essential for the future of this great event. Penn State DuBois has nearly one thousand students attending classes, but on average only fifteen students volunteer their time each night over the five-day period. This presents a problem for the Business Society. If student participation continues to decrease, this event will only be a memory.

During our search for possible solutions to this problem, we used several research tactics. These tactics included distributing a student survey on campus, conducting personal interviews with the co-advisors and officers to the Business Society, and also with students who were involved in past years. We also researched journal articles and made contact with department heads to show the significance of student involvement in on campus activities.

If students are aware of their ability to be involved in the Haunted House, they are more likely to participate. One way to accomplish this is by increasing advertising on campus. If students are offered incentives for participating, they will. Gift certificates from area businesses and free food will entice students to donate their time. Faculty involvement is crucial for the success of the Haunted House. Our findings indicated that students would volunteer if faculty offered class points to them for doing so.



When Halloween rolls around it means ghosts, goblins, and scary creatures come to life. At Penn State DuBois it also means the annual Business Society’s Haunted House. The Haunted House is a smashing success every year, raising thousands of dollars for local charities. These charities include the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and the United Way (Muth).

The Haunted House is a five-day event. There is a day of set-up that transforms the campus gymnasium into a spooky and frightening Halloween Haunted House. The completed Haunted House is then open to the public for three evenings. The fifth and final day is teardown, in which the gymnasium becomes recognizable again.



The same problem arises every year, lack of student participation. The lack of student volunteers is a continuous problem for all organizations, yet for the Haunted House it’s especially problematic. In a student survey conducted on the Penn State DuBois Campus, 88% of students said they were aware of the Haunted House; however, only 35% of students said they participated in it (Questionnaire).

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For a copy of the student survey, please see Attachment A. For graphical representation of these statistics, please see Attachment B. The Haunted House needs an average of thirty volunteers per day. But over the five-day period the average number of participants is fifteen, less than half of the volunteers needed (Breakey).


If the lack of student participation continues, the Haunted House may be only a memory. As Tonya Hepburn, vice-president of the Business Society said, “Getting people involved is crucial. When no one helps, it discourages others from participating again.”

Most of the volunteers are members of the Business Society; however, the Business Society alone does not have the membership numbers to keep this event alive. Only 12% of the students surveyed are members of the club (Questionnaire). For a graphical representation of club membership, please see Attachment C. One of the primary reasons for the continuing success of the Haunted House is Laurie Breakey’s Marketing 301 class. The class is responsible for marketing the event. The class is also required to volunteer one evening. The work of these additional students is a great help to the Business Society and the Haunted House.


There is a tremendous amount of interest in the Haunted House. Our research has shown that freshman and sophomore interest is high concerning the project, which will be beneficial in upcoming years (Questionnaire). For a graphical representation of student standing, please see Attachment C. Nearly fifty-percent of students surveyed said they are unaware of the benefits of participating in on campus activities (Questionnaire). For a graphical representation of the knowledge of benefits, please see Attachment D. Students need to realize that by volunteering their time, they are preparing for their futures, personally and professionally.

The personal benefits are numerous. Of the students surveyed, 45% of them stated they do not have enough time to participate; however, participating will increase their time-management skills. For the 12% of students who stated they are stressed and did not need any extra hassles, participating will lower their stress levels by teaching them how to juggle several responsibilities at once (Questionnaire; Mahan). For a graphical representation of why students have not participated, please see Attachment D.

“Evidence shows that the most memorable academic learning takes place out of the classroom, in extra-curricular activities” (“Back to College” 10). Dave Dishong participated in the 2002 Haunted House. “I initially participated in the Haunted House as part of my marketing class. We did all of the advertising and marketing. I had such a good time helping out on Wednesday’s setup that I came back the next day to help out because so few people showed up. I ended up all painted up and scaring kids. I was there every day of the Haunted House. I had a great time. I would definitely volunteer again. After I found out how much money we raised for Make-A-Wish, I felt good about myself.”

The professional benefits are plentiful as well. When asked to chose between two possible candidates for a job, one who had a straight 4.0 GPA and wasn’t involved in any on-campus activities and one who had a slightly lower GPA but was involved in many on-campus activities, Jay Pifer, president of Allegheny Power Company stated, “There’s no doubt about it, I’d pick the one who was involved.” Furthermore, “Employers look for leadership, interpersonal, and teamwork skills in the candidates they hire. Your campus activities will give you these kinds of experiences that you can use to demonstrate your ability to fit into the workforce” (“Employers” 50). This is beneficial to all students. By participating in extracurricular activities students will learn to work in groups, and learn teamwork and interpersonal skills. These skills are valuable for the futures of these students. Jeff Deitrich, head of the Education Department at Penn State University, University Park, said this about working in groups, “It’s beneficial for your future and club participation can be listed on you’re résumé.”

Research Methods


We used several methods in researching this problem. One of our primary research goals was to distribute surveys to a wide range of students on-campus. We distributed a total of 300 surveys to a variety of classes and had a return rate of 50%. We wanted to focus on the business students; however, we also wanted to expand the base for participation. We created a large student basis for our surveys by distributing them in a variety of classrooms, such as English 202D with Ms. Jackie Atkins, Business Law 243 with Dr. Richard Hawkins, Speech Comm 100 with Dr. Mary Mino, Spanish courses with Dr. Debbie Gill, and math courses with Dr. Rick Brazier.

Personal Interviews

We conducted several personal interviews. These interviews included the 2002-2003 president and vice president of the Business Society, Sheri Putt and Tonya Hepburn respectively. We also interviewed the co-advisors to the Business Society, Laurie Breakey and Annette Muth, as well as students who participated in the event.

E-mail Contacts

We contacted several professors and department heads via e-mail at both Penn State DuBois and Penn State University Park on the importance of on-campus involvement. Every person contacted replied with several personal and professional benefits involved in participating in on-campus activities.

Journal Articles

We found several articles in professional journals describing the importance of participating and recruiting tactics used in other organizations. These articles provided background evidence for our recommendations. Please see Attachment K for a source list.


The purpose of this report is to provide the Business Society with information to increase student participation in their annual Haunted House.


During the process of this project, we have found several solutions that could be useful in solving the problem. These recommendations are listed briefly below. They are discussed in depth on the following pages.

Increasing advertising on-campus for volunteers
Distributing gift certificates to volunteers
Offering free food to volunteers
Increasing faculty involvement



Advertising During Freshman Orientation
Increased awareness of the Business Society and the Haunted House will lead to more volunteers. By advertising during Freshmen Orientation, the Business Society can reach approximately 275 students new to campus (Pennington). According to Rebecca Pennington, Student Life Coordinator at Penn State DuBois, clubs may provide a flyer to be included in the freshmen information packet. This type of advertising will target students new to campus and who are unaware of the Business Society or the Haunted House. Plus, new students are eager to become involved in campus activities, especially ones that raise money for charities (Peles). For a sample flyer, please see Attachment E.

The costs of this recommendation are minimal. It will take some time and effort on behalf of the Business Society to design, produce, and deliver a flyer to Rebecca. The flyer may be submitted either via hard copy or e-mail, and Rebecca will take care of making all the needed copies. The Business Society is welcome to use the sample flyer, which will decrease the time and effort needed for this recommendation.

Advertising Throughout Campus

With nearly a thousand students attending Penn State DuBois, there are bound to be more than fifteen people willing to volunteer their time for the Haunted House. One of the primary reasons for not participating was students did not know how to be involved (Questionnaire). For a summary of the reasons why students did not participate, please see Attachment D. The only way to inform students of how to participate is to advertise throughout campus. This can be done several ways.

Placing Flyers on Campus Bulletin Boards

By placing flyers on the various bulletin boards on campus, the Business Society can start early in the attempt to recruit volunteers. The Marketing Class puts flyers advertising the Haunted House on each of the bulletin boards; however, the flyers just inform students of when the event is, they do not invite students to participate (Putt). By inviting students to participate, the Business Society can gather more volunteers. Again, if students are aware they can participate, they will.

The costs of this recommendation are minimal, merely paper to print the flyer, time, and effort on behalf of the people hanging the flyers. The same flyer used for Freshmen Orientation could be used for this purpose. For the sample flyer, please see Attachment E. The Business Society is welcome to use the sample flyer, which will decrease the time and effort needed for this recommendation.

Inviting Other Clubs to Participate

“Clubs and organizations on-campus must participate in one campus activity and one community activity per academic year,” stated Rebecca Pennington. Clubs and organizations may participate in the Haunted House, since it counts as one of their required activities. Pennington also said, “Clubs should know they are permitted to participate; however, with the continual influx of new officers, the information may be lost.”

One way to inform club officers and members of the opportunity to complete one of their required activities is to make sure they know they can participate. A short memo in their mailboxes explaining the Haunted House and inviting them to a Business Society meeting will entice them to participate. It’s important they know they do not have to join the Business Society to participate; the invitation to help is open to all! For a sample memo to distribute to the clubs, please see Attachment F. The Business Society is welcome to use the sample memo, which will decrease the time and effort needed for this recommendation.

Student List Serve

With the increase of technology on campus, every student has access to his or her university e-mail. Clubs and organizations have the ability to inform students instantaneously of campus activities by sending an e-mail through the student list serve.

Of the students surveyed, 21% stated they were unsure of how to participate in the Haunted House (Questionnaire). For a complete summary of why students do not participate, please see Attachment D. With a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, the Business Society can send an e-mail to the entire student body at Penn State DuBois, encouraging them to participate in the Haunted House (Pennington). This simple e-mail should perk student’s interest and entice them to come to the next Business Society meeting, where they will learn more about participating. As with the clubs, it’s important for students to know they do not have to join the Business Society to participate.

The only cost involved with this recommendation is the time of the person drafting and e-mailing it. For a sample e-mail, please see Attachment G. The Business Society is welcome to use the sample e-mail, which will decrease the time and effort needed for this recommendation.

According to a student survey, 82% of students said they would participate if offered incentives. Furthermore, 27% of students said they would participate if offered gift certificates for area businesses (Questionnaire). For a graphical representation of this information, please see Attachment H. By using gift certificates as an incentive for participating, students will be rewarded monetarily for their work.

This tactic has been attempted in the past. In past years gift certificates were donated from area businesses as rewards to students who volunteered. In 2002, students were awarded gift certificates for volunteering the most; however, there was some confusion among students as to how the rewards were distributed. From personal experience, Stacie Peles knows that some students who participated all evenings did not receive anything, while other students received multiple certificates.

The Business Society should outline the reward process in one of their meetings to ensure all participants know how the rewards will be distributed. A sample plan for distributing the donated gift certificates can be as simple as the Business Society keeping detailed attendance records. The records can then be used to track how many nights each volunteer participated. The gift certificates can be distributed to the students who volunteered the most nights, down to those who volunteered the fewest nights. The rewards should be distributed during a Business Society meeting, so students know the process was fair.

The costs of this recommendation are minimal. It will cost the members of the Business Society time and effort soliciting donated gift certificates from area businesses. It will also take some time to compile the attendance records and to distribute the gift certificates during a meeting.

According to the student survey, 28% of students stated free food would encourage them to participate in the Haunted House (Questionnaire). For a graphical representation of possible incentives to offer students, please see Attachment H. By receiving food during the evening, volunteers will not need to spend money to stay a few extra hours on campus. This will entice students to stay and participate. This tactic was used two years ago and it was very effective and well accepted by volunteers; however, it hasn’t been used since then (Aughenbaugh).

The easiest, cheapest way to feed the volunteers is to purchase pizzas and liters of soda. A survey of three pizza restaurants in DuBois proved Playtime Pizza the cheapest. Playtime Pizza manager Danielle LeCates quoted a price of $6.00 per pizza for the Business Society.

The following is a summary of the cost to feed thirty volunteers for five days, based on Playtime Pizza’s quote. To feed thirty people two pieces of pizza each, it will cost $30.00 per evening, totaling $150.00. The cost of drinks for volunteers, 10 bottles of soda (at approximately $1.00 per bottle) over five days would be approximately $50.00. The total cost of feeding the volunteers over the five-day event would be approximately $200.00. The money to pay for this food could come from the Business Society’s club funds. For complete details regarding pizza prices from all restaurants please see figure 1.

Figure 1 - Pizza Price Comparison
Restaurant Name Price per Pizza Number of Pies Needed Total Price for Pizza
for all days
Playtime Pizza $6.00 25 $150.00
Domino’s Pizza $9.53 40 $381.20
Pizza Hut $9.53 40 $381.20


Memo Reading
Every student on campus attends classes, so one of the best ways to inform students of the Haunted House is through the classroom. This can be done easily with teachers reading a short memo provided by the Business Society. The memo can be placed in each of the teacher’s mailboxes, with a cover letter asking them to read it in class. It should provide students with information on how to become involved. This memo should be short so it will only take a few seconds to read. This will prevent it from hindering class progress. Tonya Hepburn, vice president of the Business Society stated, “Faculty and staff involvement is important to the success of the Haunted House.” This is a way for the faculty to be involved in a student run activity on campus. For a sample cover letter please see Attachment I and for a sample memo, please see Attachment J. The Business Society is welcome to use the sample cover letter and memo, which will decrease the time and effort needed for this recommendation.

Class Points
When asked to choose between four types of incentives to encourage participation, 35% of students said class points would encourage them to participate (Questionnaire). For a graphical representational of this data, please see Attachment H. Students are concerned about their grades. If faculty would provide the students with the incentive of extra class points, students would be encouraged to participate in the Haunted House. The participation in on-campus activities benefits both students and faculty. “Regular campus participation will gradually build a relationship with the faculty and school administration” (Morrow 50). This will be advantageous in the classroom, as students and faculty will have a better understanding of each other. Students who participate in activities outside of the classroom, such as the Haunted House will have “stronger communication, initiative, decision making, and teamwork skills” (Baldwin, et al., 449).

The costs of this recommendation are time and effort on the faculty’s behalf. By using the Business Society’s detailed attendance records, the teachers would simply have to record the points for each student.


The annual Business Society Haunted House is an event that draws thousands of people to the Penn State DuBois campus. However, lack of student participation is forcing a small number of students to carry the workload. Students must realize there are several personal and professional benefits to be had, other than just having fun! Personal benefits include less stress and better time management skills. Professional benefits include a more impressive résumé and overall better interpersonal skills.

Improving student participation in the Haunted House can be done several ways. One way is by increasing advertising on campus. This can be accomplished by targeting freshmen during orientation, advertising for volunteers by placing flyers on campus bulletin boards, inviting other clubs to participate, and by sending out an e-mail through the student list serve for volunteers. With this approach the Business Society can reach more students than ever before. More students will be aware they can participate, so more will join the Business Society’s efforts!

By receiving gift certificates, students will feel as though they are being rewarded for their time and effort. Although this was done in the past, improved awareness of the rewards process will entice students to contribute to the event.

Offering volunteers free pizza and drinks will provide them with dinner, so they will not be forced to spend money to stay and partake in the Haunted House fun. Approximately $200.00 to feed 30 people is a small price to pay for raising thousands of dollars for charity.

Faculty involvement is important for any on-campus event to be successful. Faculty members can encourage students involvement by reading a short memo to students with information on how to participate, and by giving class points for participation. Faculty members can pave the way for increased student participation in the Haunted House.

By implementing all or some of these recommendations, the Business Society can increase volunteer numbers, which will lead to more fun and a more enjoyable experience for all involved. Plus, if more students are aware of the Business Society and its functions, more students will become interested in the club. This will lead to increased membership numbers.

We hope this report has provided you with several ideas for improving participation in the Business Society’s Haunted House. This is an awesome event at Penn State DuBois. If more people become involved, the event can only grow bigger and more successful. If you have any questions or comments concerning this report, please feel free to contact our group at any of these e-mail addresses: Adam Berasi:, Amanda Krulia: or Stacie Peles:

Works Cited

Aughenbaugh, Katie. Secretary of Business Society. Personal interview. 20 March 2003.

“Back-to-College Basics.” Christian Science Monitor 31 Aug. 2001: 10.

Baldwin, Timothy T., William H Bommer, and Robert S Rubin. “Using Extracurricular Activity as an

Indicator of Interpersonal Skill: Prudent Evaluation Of Recruiting Malpractice?” Human Resource Management 41 (Winter 2002): 441-454.

Breakey, Laurie. Co-Advisor of Business Society. Personal interview. 25 February 2003.

Deitrich, Jeff. “Education Program.” E-mail to Stacie Peles. 29 October 2002.

Dishong, Dave. Haunted House Participant. E-mail to Stacie Peles. 20 March 2003.

“Employers Give Advice to Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors.” Journal of Career Planning & Employment 57 (Winter 1997): 50.

Hepburn, Tonya. Vice-President of Business Society. Personal interview. 20 March 2003.

LeCates, Danielle. Manager of Playtime Pizza. Personal Interview. 28 March 2003.

Mahan, Wendy. “On Campus Involvement.” E-mail to Stacie Peles. 29 October 2002.

Morrow, Edwin P. “Recruiting Smarter.” Journal of Financial Planning 13 (July 2000): 48-51.

Muth, Annette. Co-Advisor of Business Society. Personal interview. 24 February 2003.

Pennington, Rebecca. Student Life Coordinator. Personal interview. 25 March 2003.

Peles, Stephanie. High School Senior. Personal interview. 27 March 2003.

Pifer, Jay. Lecture at Penn State DuBois. 9 November 2002.

Putt, Sheri. President of Business Society. Personal interview. 20 March 2003.

Questionnaire for students. Distributed 7, 17-18 March 2003. Penn State DuBois.

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