Cooking classes, musical theater productions, sports games and theme parks may not be the first things students imagine when they think about extracurriculars. But GatorDays, a recent addition to the University of Florida’s department of Student Activities & Involvement, is changing the game.
Launched in June 2021, GatorDays is a student-led program aimed at helping students get to know the region through free events. Off-campus events are the centerpiece: Day trips have included a local restaurant, The Fat Tuscan, for a pasta-making class and Jacksonville to see the traveling production of “Hamilton.” This weekend, students are heading back to Jacksonville for a Jaguars football game, and later this semester, they will be able to sign up to visit a theme park.
Blair Wortsmith, program coordinator at Student Activities & Involvement and GatorDays adviser, said the main mission of GatorDays is to positively contribute to each student’s holistic growth.
“A big part of that is providing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that students may not have otherwise had,” she said. “Making sure that people aren’t just having an amazing University of Florida experience, but they’re having an amazing North Florida experience, as well.”
Wortsmith said GatorDays aims to host up to three events each month, with at least one on-campus and one off-campus option. Charter buses are provided for all out-of-town events, which, during these pilot semesters, are typically limited to around 100 students per trip.
Wortsmith led the development of GatorDays based on similar programs at other institutions, student attendance of previous events and feedback from students who plan campus events. The initiative complements other campus efforts to promote student involvement, such as GatorNights and Student Government Productions.
Now, a team of close to 30 students manages events, membership and outreach for the program.
For Daniel Gallup, GatorDays executive director, having the creative freedom to plan an event students will enjoy is the most rewarding part. When it comes to events, he said the team values quality over quantity, striving to provide opportunities that students will continue to talk about after they’ve happened.
“Throughout my life, I’ve always felt the most fulfilled when I’m able to give back to my community,” he said. “When I saw the description for GatorDays over the summer, I said, ‘This position perfectly aligns with what I want to do’ — which is provide these kinds of experiences to the most students possible.”
Gallup said that he hopes the variety of on- and off-campus events will give students the opportunity to have new experiences, form friendships and find a sense of belonging on a campus with more than 54,000 students.
“Really, what the hope is for me is providing a space that everyone is truly welcome to attend and be a part of,” he said. “And that’s regardless of socioeconomic status and accessibility. We want to be truly inclusive.”
Learn more about GatorDays.
Follow the GatorDays Instagram to stay up to date on events and trips.
Sources: Blair Wortsmith, email@example.com;
Daniel Gallup, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Veronica Nocera, email@example.com