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Newsmakers: Q&A with Executive Director of Events Management, Kerri Cunningham

Every other week, the Talon invites a member of the Oklahoma Christian University community, a “Newsmaker,” to answer questions about their role on campus.

On Wednesday, Jan. 26, Kerri Cunningham, the executive director of Events Management at Oklahoma Christian, answered questions about the impact of the coronavirus on campus events and what students can expect to see in the coming semesters.

How has the Events Office’s coronavirus policy changed for the Spring semester?

“Currently, we don’t have anything in place, because Dr. (Jeff) McCormack feels like we’re on the downward trend. We’re all going to live like this is just a normal part of our lives from now on, and so that’s how we are going at Events right now. People are ready to get out. They all need to be safe and careful—as if you had the flu—but we feel like we’ve really turned a corner.”

How is the Events office planning to use the new event center in the Gaylord University Center?

“Obviously, COVID-19 has stalled our opening up and everything, but the purpose is revenue-generating. We’ve got conferences scheduled in there; we’ve got tons of banquets already on the books. It is just like a conference center anywhere else in Edmond or Oklahoma City. When they (UDining) do their catering food–you’re not going to find a better caterer in Oklahoma City, so they will do a lot of business that way as well. It’s 11,000 square feet, and everything is brand new. We’re going to have a major open house at some point and invite the civic community, and we want them on our campus. We want them to know what’s going on here.”

How do you see events bringing the campus closer together?

“If we are not engaged as people on campus, we’re either going to lose your interest or people will get here and say ‘yeah, I got an education, but I didn’t get an experience.’ I feel like part of what Oklahoma Christian is about is the experience you have here, and you’ve got to have those activities to have those experiences.”

Why do you feel keeping events active on campus is important, not just to the student body but to the community around us?

“Well, obviously, OC has a higher percentage of residential (students) on campus. Somebody, way back when, decided that was super important–to have you guys engaged on campus, to have you living on campus, to have your daily life on campus. That’s why we feel those events are important. It’s also important that our community sees us. From a donor perspective, OC would not be open if we didn’t have donors, so they’ve got to be engaged on campus as well. Prior to COVID-19, we had speakers coming all the time who engaged our community, and we’ve got to get back there so they (the community) know we’re still active.

What is the Events Office number one goal for each event you put on?

“I want to make sure people feel welcome and feel like we can have difficult conversations. I want our events to make sure we invite and make people feel welcome and they can kind of get a taste of our mission and our personality on campus.”

What events would you most like to see return to campus that have been gone as a result of COVID-19?

“The first thing that popped into my mind was an event we had called She Speaks, and it was pre-COVID-19. I would love to get it back because we had the gym full of women on campus–I would love to see that come back. We’re also trying to get back the McBride Center. They’re trying to get their event going again this spring. Anything that revolves around an outside speaker coming to our campus, because there is no way you guys are going to have the opportunities to hear some of these people on your own. If we can bring them here, and you guys take advantage of them, you’re going to be exposed to all kinds of things that help you develop your education.”

What annual event is your personal favorite to oversee?

“I like Winter Wonderland Week. It’s just fun to do. On Lighting of the Commons night, we’ve got young alums coming back to see Santa with their kids. It is probably one of the largest activities that our students, across the board, come and participate in. We do about 2,000 coffee mugs. That’s my personal favorite–that week that we can just have fun.”

What new Events are coming to Oklahoma Christian this year?

“We’re just trying to get back pre-COVID-19 events, so I think until we get those back, it’s kind of hard to start thinking about new events. This isn’t a new event, but Student Life is working hard on getting students to basketball games and sporting activities. And I’m always looking for speakers to come. 

We’d also like to hear from you guys (students). We don’t feel like we need to come up with all the ideas; we’re here to help either get administration behind it or get the money, but we really love to hear from students that think ‘this would be a lot of fun.’ We have an email address, and we would recommend anybody emailing us. It doesn’t have to be an event that 400 people come to. 

Our office is open. Our purpose really is to have events that highlight the University but benefit you guys. Come in, talk to us, tell us what you want to do.”

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