By Beth Casteel
Catherine Tiesling has had a busy couple of months. As the Campus Life and Major Events Specialist, Tiesling is responsible for hosting about 130 events each year for Cleveland State University, one of which is a three day jam-packed weekend called Family Weekend.
Now in its second year, Family Weekend is an event that gives students the opportunity to bring people to downtown Cleveland to explore the city and see everything the campus has to offer.
While it’s been coined Family Weekend, or Fam Fest, there was an emphasis on letting students know that family could mean anything,
“The one thing we did try to stress is that family could be anything. It didn’t have to mean your family was coming,” Tiesling said. “We called it Fam Fest because your fam could be your roommates, your fam could be anyone, so we didn’t want it to be very traditional. It could be anyone you wanted.”
With Fam Fest, Tiesling made sure that inclusion was also considered in the type of events that were hosted throughout the three day weekend. Running from Feb. 2 through Feb. 4, each day hosted a wide variety of events for students to choose from.
The first day of activities were mainly ticketed events that included a Cleveland Monsters game, ice skating at Public Square, a performance of Marie and Rosetta at Playhouse Square or MIX at the Cleveland Museum of Art — all of which completely sold out or almost sold out.
The rest of the weekend included more passive events. Saturday had a tailgate and basketball game that sold over 300 tickets, while Sunday consisted of brunch at Viking Marketplace.
In addition to the events, students could also enjoy a scavenger hunt to better explore the campus and downtown. Places like the Rec Center and Viking Outfitters also got involved — giving discounted prices to things at each place.
With such a huge event, there were a lot of moving parts to it. Tiesling did a lot of research in order to make things the best that they could be for students who wanted to participate in the weekend.
“I did a lot of research of what other campuses do and implemented that. We don’t have a football team and a lot of other campuses, their family weekend is in the fall and it’s around football. For us, it’s in the spring, and we put it around a basketball game,” Tiesling said. “I also saw time and time again a discounted rec center. So, I reached out to different departments to try to include those.”
So far, it’s been a learning process for Tiesling. While this is technically the second year of Family Weekend, last year’s event didn’t have as big of a turnout.
After realizing that they needed to market more than last year, Tiesling and the marketing department started pushing out information about the event a lot sooner — which has paid off significantly. The number of participants for this year’s event has drawn around 120 families, with over 400 participants joining in on the festivities.
With the numbers drastically improving since last year’s event, Tiesling was hopeful that students would enjoy the activities that were picked for this year’s event. While she couldn’t comment on any of the events since the interview was conducted prior to Family Weekend actually starting, she was interested to see how students and families would react to each activity.
After the event, Tiesling will evaluate what worked and what didn’t in her post-event notes — marking what needs to be changed for next year’s Family Weekend. With every new program, she maintains that it’s all about finding what works and implementing any feedback that she receives from the students, so she can make future events better for those who want to participate.
While this has been a busy past couple of months, Tiesling hopes that Family Weekend will start being an event that students know happens and becomes a tradition for the campus every spring.
“Last year, I worked Family Weekend, and a mom came to check in last year, and I remember she was so excited. I remember sitting there thinking, because it wasn’t successful in that moment, we need this mom, we need to find the rest of those students and we need to open family weekend for them,” Tiesling said. “I think we have found that this year.”