For student organizations, event setup can be one of the most difficult parts of running a group. The process of buying event supplies, submitting their reimbursement requests and receipts, and then actually receiving their reimbursements can take up considerable time for both organizations’ members and Undergraduate Student Government treasurers (USG). It also requires initial funds that not all students have on hand at any given time. With the new Sparta Center, the Student Activities Office (SAO) and Undergraduate Student Government have partnered to help lessen this issue for students.
Two and a half years ago, the SAO was planning a very different Sparta Center. As they were allocating space in the then-upcoming Tinkham Veale University Center (TVUC), Director of Student Activities and Leadership Colleen Barker-Williamson requested a large, open space for a poster and balloon shop for student organizations. As the building plans changed and progressed, the space shrank, and a storefront counter was added. In response to this, Barker-Williamson and USG Vice President of finance Chippy Kennedy created the Sparta Center.
Opened on Jan. 19, the Sparta Center is a space adjacent to the SAO in the TVUC where student groups can check out commonly used items such as sidewalk chalk, disposable dishware and chafing dishes.
“I was a treasurer in USG last year, and during my time, I started to think that life would be a lot easier for both the groups and myself…if instead of a reimbursement-based system, we had a ‘let’s go buy all of the stuff ahead of time’ system,” explained Kennedy.
He also noted that the Sparta Center will save the university thousands of dollars this semester and hopefully even more in future semesters.
The Sparta Center is still very much in its beginning stages. Barker-Williamson and Kennedy are still adding new items, such as chopsticks and water coolers, and the SAO student interns and USG finance committee members who staff the office are tweaking its structure and organization as needed. Especially given its newness and the changes it’s still undergoing, the Sparta Center is a great resource for student organizations.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to see its opening. It’s an investment that hopefully will pay off for student organizations, save the university money and make event planning much easier.
Though it supports the Sparta Center as is, The Observer does have one suggestion to tweak the program going forward. Currently, all items funded by USG—many of the Center’s available items, including cups, plates and the like—are available only to organizations under USG. To open this resource to more campus organizations, The Observer would like to suggest that the Student Executive Council instead of the USG allocate some funding to the Sparta Center, so other campus groups, such as members of the Residence Hall Association, Media Board, Greek Life or University Programming Board can have access to the same resources.
With that change and those already underway, the Sparta Center—already a great resource—can become even better.