Each year, incoming freshmen are unsure what to expect when coming to a school like Sonoma State University, with it’s 269 acres and student population of over 9,200; resembling a small town rather than an institution of learning.
Big Nite, run by university staff and students, is an opening extravaganza to welcome new and returning students the first week of school.
The night is an all out event to bring clubs, local businesses and on campus organizations all to one place at Lot D, the Student Center and Rec Center.
“The idea was to get people to the Student Union at the time, to get people to the Commons, to show them that area,” said Mo Phillips, Director of Campus Life. “It was about bringing people together.”
When Phillips started Big Nite, she commented that the average age of a student at Sonoma State was 28, rather than the current 18-20 age group that can be seen today.
“It is truly a campus community event and I’m really proud of that and what it’s grown into,” said Phillips. “I’m always excited to see what next year is going to look like.”
Phillips shared that before Big Nite, Sonoma State had nothing going on to create community with the students on campus. The campus closed at 5 p.m.
Big Nite is now a tradition at Sonoma State, organized the beginning of every year to welcome incoming students and to create a sense of community at Sonoma State.
An estimated five to six thousand students attended last year’s Big Nite, and Phillips sounded confident that next year’s Big Nite will have the same turnout, if not bigger.
“When I think of Big Nite, I think of it as being the first big thing to happen on campus,” said Brandon Plair-Holmes, Community Service Advisor and future Associated Students Productions Programming Director. “I feel Big Nite really sets the tone, it builds that confidence, especially as a freshman.”
Describing himself as a “Super Senior,” Plair-Holmes recalls when Big Nite was at the lawn in front of the Student Union, which is now International Hall.
“Being here for four years and seeing the evolution of it [Big Nite] when it was over next to Salazar and just being in the grass field and the only thing that was there was tables and stuff like that,” said Plair-Holmes. “It’s crazy, it’s big, it’s huge, it’s essentially really Big Nite now.”
When Big Nite first started, about 900 students lived on campus, at Cabernet village, Zinfandel village and Verdot village.
Now Sonoma State consists of 3,100 students living on campus in the residence halls: Cabernet village, Zinfandel village, Verdot village, Sauvignon village, Beaujolais village and Tuscany village.
“Big Nite this year is going to be bigger than ever,” said Emily Wirdzek, Kinesiology Major and Campus Life Programer. “I like Big Nite because it’s a chance for everyone to get together, talk about their summer, hangout, take pictures, talk about the year to come and have fun.”
Plans for Big Nite in Fall 2015 is still in the works, and not much could be said on what it will entail; Phillips encourages anyone to contact her to create a bigger and better Big Nite.
“A lot of people say there’s nothing to do here, there’s nothing on campus, nothing to do around here,” said Plair-Holmes. “But Big Nite is one of those places that you can start to actually see what there is going on around here.”