When Mac @ Nite began in the spring of 2012, its appeal was simple yet effective: free food. Promises of pizza, sandwiches or nachos lured in packs of students.
In its third year, the program has now expanded, but retains its commitment to feeding the masses. Mac @ Nite is a consistent presence in student life. Its goal is to provide an opportunity for on-campus socializing in the late hours of the night.
“The events are an option for students that doesn’t involve drinking or going to parties,” said Campus Programs engagement coordinator Biftu Takele ’16, who helps to organize Mac @ Nite through her job. “They attract students who want to stay on campus and have fun late at night in a more responsible way.”
“The first events were insane because there were drunken hordes of people showing up, eating food and leaving,” Phoebe Marcus ’14 said.
Dean of Students Jim Hoppe was the main force behind the creation of Mac @ Nite. Inspired by a similar program at Davidson College in North Carolina, Hoppe pushed for a version at Macalester.
“I felt like we needed something late at night that was low-pressure and gave people a reason to come out of their rooms, to quit partying or to take a break,” Hoppe said.
Although Hoppe faced a bit of skepticism from fellow administrators about the success of school-sanctioned, late-night events, the success of the first Mac @ Nite put these doubts to rest. For the first program, he ordered 350 Jimmy Johns sandwiches. They were gone within a period of four minutes.
What was more convincing than the popularity of the food was that after the first sandwich rush, over 150 students stuck around for the rest of the night. “This legitimized for us that there was a need,” Hoppe said.
After the first few events, Campus Programs took over Mac @ Nite. They implemented a standard protocol for each event and began the process of building a reputation for the organization.
“The Mac @ Nite brand is really important, so you have an expectation,” Marcus said. “It’s now a thing, as opposed to each event being sold separately.”
Mac @ Nite follows a consistent format: an administrative department, such as Alumni Relations or the library, sponsors each event. For these events, the departments are responsible for brainstorming ideas, selecting activities and running the night’s affairs. Each Mac @ Nite receives a budget of $1,200, which can be supplemented if necessary.
The Campus Programs staff, which includes both administrators and students like Takele, aids the departments in the process. They help execute and coordinate the events. A large part of their role is also publicizing Mac @ Nite and attracting students.
“It’s really about what you’re offering and how you publicize it,” Takele said. “We target first-years and sophomores and incorporate cool posters to spread the word.”
After each event, Mac @ Nite does an evaluation to obtain a general pulse from the department of how the event was received by the student population. According to Suresh Mudragada, Assistant Director of Campus Programs, the most successful events tend to be more interactive.
“When students get to do something tangible in addition to eating and socializing, the events work really well,” Mudragada said.
The Campus Center ran two of the most popular events so far: last year’s Toppers & Tie Dye and this year’s Critters & Fritters. Both programs involved crafts that attendees could take home, tie-dye T-shirts and Build-A-Bear stuffed animals, respectively.
Director of the Campus Center Cindy Haarstad put a great deal of effort into both of these Mac @ Nites. “We try to think of what could be a creative event,” Haarstad said. “When we hear of an event at a conference, for example, we tuck it in our back pockets.”
Haarstad enjoys the planning process. She also thinks Mac @ Nite provides an important opportunity for students to interact with administrators.
“Students get to see faculty, staff and administrators in a different role. They meet them and see their creativity.”
“Administrators have to be more than just names in the paper,” Hoppe reiterated. “It’s why students come to a small school and why we work here.”
Hoppe sees Mac @ Nite as a vital component of student life and is proud of its progress. He does not think its influence will wane in the future.
Neither does Marcus. “I don’t see it losing its momentum,” Marcus said. She believes that if Mac @ Nite holds true to its original purpose of creating community events, students will turn up.
Some will stay for the full events, making an evening of it. Others will arrive from parties and only stay long enough to consume free food. Either way, new programming will happen each month.
“It’s a good opportunity to sober up,” Takele said. “If drunk students can make it to the event, more power to them.”
This inclusive attitude is a key characteristic of the programs. The next event, Blankets and Bagels, is November 16 and will be hosted by International Student Programs. Whether students take a break from studying or decide to leave an off-campus party, Mac @ Nite welcomes them.
As Hoppe says, “See you Saturday night!”