Neighbor Festival takes over campus mall

By Kate Daniel, Eagle Life Editor

Chris Michaels spins cotton candy for students at Neighbor Festival.
Photo by Laura Jones.                                                     Chris Michaels spins cotton candy for students at Neighbor Festival.


Hundreds of EWU students and staff joined representatives from local organizations and businesses in the brisk autumn air to celebrate Neighbor Festival on Sept. 27 in the campus mall.

Neighbor Festival, also known as Neighbor Day, is an annual event sponsored by Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership which aims to connect the EWU campus with its surrounding community. This year the festival featured performances by New England-based folk duo Tall Heights and EWU’s Damn Dirty Apes. Many organizations distributed free literature and goods to inquiring attendees.

Participants included campus clubs and organizations, Cheney and Spokane businesses and organizations such as the Peace Corps, Spokane Humane Society and Let’s Move, Cheney.

Amy Johnson, associate vice president for student life, said, “Neighbor Festival is an opportunity for the university and Spokane [and] Cheney to come together, highlight our great programs and resources and celebrate our shared communities.”

Samantha Armstrong Ash, Leadership Education Advisor for Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership at EWU, said the event has taken a variety of names and forms but has been a staple on campus for as long as she can recall.

“We [EWU and the surrounding community] support one another and we want to ensure that our students know all of their resources, how they can engage on and off campus and expose people to what Eastern and our region offers,” she said.

One of the objectives of Neighbor Festival is to foster a friendly environment of communication and collaboration between EWU and its surrounding communities.

“It brings people together. It exposes people to local businesses and the importance of investing locally,” said Armstrong Ash. “It also provides a platform for people to identify collaboration opportunities, ways to support one another et cetera.”

Armstrong Ash said that a variety of student clubs and organizations, including fraternities, sororities, academic groups and cultural clubs are represented.

“We have 175 plus clubs, organizations, departments, and area businesses represented. This is a significant increase from last year and we truly feel there will be something for everyone,” said Armstrong Ash. “Beyond the excitement of people simply getting to connect with one another, there will be music, food and interactive components throughout the festival. Never underestimate the power of free food and swag.”

Student organizations present at Neighbor Festival included the Chemistry Club, Inland Empire Forensic Science Society, Pride Center, Delta Chi Fraternity and Alpha Pi Sigma Latin Sorority.

“There are several benefits for student attendees. [They] have the opportunity to identify local and regional resources, network and either set up or improve their support system while at Eastern and living in the area,” she said.

Armstrong Ash said she is enthused that “umbrella organizations” such as ASEWU, Eagle Entertainment and the Office for Civic Engagement were in attendance at this year’s festival. She said that organizations such as these can help students connect and “find their niche” outside of the classroom.

Crystal Everett, a biochemistry and forensic science major and Courtney Shaffer, a chemistry and forensic science major, hosted a table on behalf of the Inland Empire Forensic Science Society. The club began at EWU in 2006, but Everett and Shaffer say few students are aware of its existence.

“Recruitment and public relations for our club is really low,” Everett said. “I think Neighbor Fest is going to help [people know about us].”

Everett and Shaffer said club members work with Washington State Patrol Crime Lab alongside forensic scientists.

“We do real-life applications once a month: blood-spatter analysis, bullet trajectories [and] fingerprint lifting,” said Shaffer.

Vu Nguyen manned the Academic Success Center booth. Nguyen is a student employee and senior at EWU majoring in therapeutic recreation. He said Neighbor Festival offers the Academic Success Center an opportunity to reach out to students in an accessible manner.

“It’s just like bringing awareness and saying ‘Hey we’re here on campus and check us out without having to really be up in your face about it,’” said Nguyen. “It’s just like it’s a more approachable way [to let students know about us] if we just have a booth out here for the students to see if they’re interested.”

Marya Nowakowski, Peace Corps regional representative, operated a table displaying information about the Peace Corps. Nowakowski said the festival is a good way to reach students who may not have previously considered the Peace Corps as a post-graduation option.

“We have had an increase in interest in Peace Corps in recent years. Studies have shown that today’s students are service oriented,” said Nowakowski. “According to Richard Mandeville, Ph.D, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students at Whitworth University: ‘This is a generation that almost universally says it is important to them to do good and help people.’”