School spirit is one of the most defining aspects of campus culture. However, in a campus as disjointed as the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) where there are students from 9 universities on 1 campus, it is impossible to create the feeling of school spirit. Or is it possible?
On the unique USG campus, there are Hawks, Bulldogs, Bees, Terps, Sea Gulls, Retrievers, and Tigers. With this amount of different representation, one wonders: What is the point of school spirit? Is it recognition? Reputation? Community? School Pride? These questions and more crossed my mind when I saw the flyer shown below for the USG Spirit Contest.
While the prizes should have been enough motivation for anyone to participate, I battled with the decision for over a week. These days the items such as sweaters, t-shirts, and socks that are usually worn to show school spirit are overpriced. One of the first things I learned upon starting classes at USG for my program with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore was not to buy anything affiliated with my school from the bookstore. “You are going to waste your money on overpriced stuff,” many seniors in my program warned me. So when the spirit contest came around it wasn’t something that I right off the bat wanted to participate in because in my Macklemore voice “50 dollars for a t-shirt, that’s just some ignorant stuff”.
Torn between my desire for the prizes and my lack of cash to splurge on clothing that would showcase my school spirit, I decided to ask my fellow students on the campus what school spirit meant to them. If I was going to win this contest, I needed to really understand what it was that I was going to be portraying. I got some very generic answers such as “school spirit is the attitude students have about their school,” and “school spirit is wearing shirts or jackets that identify what school you attend.” I really couldn’t relate to these as I have never visited my college’s main campus, the only university I know is USG. The only information I know about my school is that it offers two degree programs at USG. The only school pride I have was formed through the relationships I have with others here at USG.
The USG campus has an advantage because it creates an environment where students are part of a tight-knit community. I am fortunate to be able to recognize my fellow students and also socialize with them. The night before the contest I realized that school spirit need not depend on the institution I attended. School spirit could depend on the relationships I have formed at the USG campus. It could depend on the community that I am part of. And it could depend on the pride of the programs that I have the honor of representing. That being said, for the spirit contest I needed to showcase all of these things. Donning college apparel with my school name on it wasn’t going to do this and also was going to clean me out more than $50.
With the advice of a wonderful colleague, I decided to make my own costume that would showcase my school spirit by representing the two programs that my university offers at the USG campus. I headed to the art supplies store Michaels and then to 5 Below to pick up all the supplies I needed. I got everything needed for under $25 and spent the rest of the evening letting my creative juices flow. Below are a few pictures of the final product, overall I think I did alright for my first time making a costume.
Through this experience that USG provided with the spirit contest, I learned a lot and really got to feel like part of a bigger community. On a campus where there are so many students from different schools, it was terrific to see that school spirit could thrive. I look forward to next year’s contest, and I would urge everyone to participate. You definitely won’t regret it.