The Big Event has students giving back to the local community

Hundreds of students participated in TU’s largest day of community service

By Henry Basta & Kyle Hobstetter on April 30, 2023

Towson University students didn’t let a little rain and mud stop them from giving back to the community this past weekend.

The Big Event, the university’s largest day of service, returned for its 13th edition on Saturday, April 29. Over 400 students from different organizations across campus volunteered at over 20 surrounding neighborhoods and community organizations.

Sponsored by the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, The Big Event provides students with the opportunity to get involved with the local community.

“To see students on the same page and ready to help out is really exciting,” says Shannon Cheek, coordinator for student community engagement in the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility. “We’re an anchor institution, and it’s really important that students understand their position in the neighborhood and understand the contributions they can make to the surrounding community.”

TU Students Pose Outside Chamber of Commerce
Towson University students were seen throughout Uptown Towson during The Big Event, the university's largest day of community service. (Alex Wright / Towson University) 

The day started with students checking in and receiving breakfast at the University Union Ballrooms. Before heading out to their service sites, students received a pep talk from Interim President Melanie Perreault, Vice President of Student Affairs Vernon Hurte and Director of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility Romy Hübler.  

Students then boarded buses and arrived at different service sites ready to pitch in and get their hands dirty. One of the service sites was near Thornleigh Stream, where the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity members helped clear invasive plants.

Interim President Perreault got in on the action, putting on gloves and pulling up vines and moving logs.

“We celebrate leadership for the public good, and I can’t think of a better example than a bunch of students getting up early in the morning on a Saturday and getting out into the community,” Perreault says. “This is who we are as Tigers. We talk the talk, and we get out and walk the walk.”

Towson Interim President Interim President Melanie Perreault moving logs
Interim President Melanie Perreault got in on the action, helping to remove invasive plants near Thornleigh Stream. (Alex Wright / Towson University) 

Patty Mochel, who is a member of the Ruxton, Riderwood, Lake Roland Area Improvement Association, suggested the site. This isn’t the first time she worked with students during The Big Event, and it won’t be the last because of the good work being done.

“I’ve always been impressed by what the students do during The Big Event,” Mochel says. “During the [Covid-19] pandemic, kids would come down to the stream and play, but it became so overrun with these invasive plants. The TU students are helping clear this area up, and provide a community space for the neighborhood.”

Helping the community was a regular theme around Towson. Members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority helped clear garden beds outside Towson Presbyterian Church.

Joan Pugh ’65 was the sponsor of the site and was overjoyed to see all the help provided by the students. The alumna also expressed excitement for the continued connection between the campus and local community.

“The enthusiasm they presented gives us a chance to have a connection to the campus,” Pugh says. “This doesn’t surprise me, because that’s the way we were back in the day. It’s nice that the community spirit has continued on, and it’s nice to just get to talk with the students too.”

One of the biggest service sites was Uptown Towson, which featured members of the Student Government Association (SGA) working to clean up the area around local businesses.

While students worked with the Towson Chamber of Commerce, Maryland State Delegate Cathi Forbes stopped by to chat with students and help them plant flowers around the sidewalks.

“We want to build a tradition and legacy of service and leadership at Towson,” says SGA President Jordan Colquitt. “All of our student organizations, campus partners, all the way up to the administration, are out here giving back and making a difference in our community.”  

A look around town at The Big Event 

The Big Event serves as just one example of how Towson University gives back to the community and provides students with experiential learning opportunities.

Beyond the Big Event, there are plenty of opportunities to get engaged in local communities. Students can sign up for the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility newsletter or visit their website to learn more.

For Hurte and the Student Affairs team, community service is a year-round mission. They also hope this experience inspires students to get involved with their community after graduation.

“Part of the TU experience is to really encourage students around civic engagement and help them understand the education is not just about preparing for your career, but how you leverage that education to make a positive difference for the community,” Hurte says. “The Big Event gives students an idea of how they can have even more of an impact beyond this day because our work is ongoing throughout the year.”