By Cody Funderburk, Staff Writer
It’s pretty hard to deny that Warren Wilson knows how to be constructive, and this value is apparent on Work Day more than any other day of the year. This year on Work Day, the campus community tackled tree planting on Dogwood Pasture, a river trail clean-up, a drainage pond clean-up, several garden cleanings, several building deep-cleanings, a community art project outside of Vining C, and much more! The participation of cooperating students in activities to benefit the community places a very strong emphasis on the civically engaged values of the college and allows the student body to thrive in the college environment.
The day begins with individual work crews eating breakfast at a predetermined time, followed by small projects that individual crews designate for themselves to complete. This aspect of working in individual crews is unique because many times students working in the same crew may not see each other outside of crew meetings, so this provides the opportunity for students to associate outside of a normal work day. Lunch is then served between 11:30 and 12:30, Lunch is followed by a school-wide trip to the pavilion for a photograph. The photographs continue to accumulate each year in the Work Program Office and serve as an excellent means of observing how the Warren Wilson Community has changed over time. At the pavillion, the Work Day projects are announced as well as the number of students needed for the given task. As the projects are announced, students run to the bottom of the hill by the pavillion to designated spirit leaders until all the projects are full of volunteers. The projects range from outdoor large-scale projects to small-scale projects and anywhere in-between. This year, a community mural project took place on the side of Vining C as part of a Work Day activity. Once the projects are completed, the day ends with a picnic dinner at the pavilion, followed by live music, and work awards.
Despite having such deep roots in the community, Work Day has not always been a tradition at the college. Dean of Work, Ian Robertson shared the origins of Work Day as it exists in the modern Wilson community: “When I came in 1981, the following year, Alan Haney and myself got together and said we would like to do something that everybody worked on.” That afternoon, everybody on campus worked to build the stone wall in the parking lot between the Chapel and the gym to keep soil from washing into the parking lot. With only 430 students, the collaboration of students and staff helped to finish the entire wall in one day; although, at the time, there weren’t work prizes, picnics, music, or other special planned events. “From then on” says Robertson, “there’s been a Work Day.” However, he admits that other faculty members who have worked here longer may have more specific memories about the origins of Work Day. Clearly, the structured predetermined events that take place during Work Day, as well as its recognition as a campus-wide holiday, are a relatively recent development.
The primary changes that have occurred in the structure of Work Day are influenced by the presence of a committee. The Work Day Committee seeks projects that need to be done on campus, usually various small tasks that are important but often overlooked. Then, as a group of 18 to 20 people, the committee works to organize a list of projects in order of priority. Considering the extensive labor force of the student body, lots of important work can be done around the campus with relative ease. Other changes that have happened are the addition of communal activities, such as picnics, volunteer work, and the general photograph of the student body. These sorts of social alliances strengthen the emphasis this day places on community, and, according to Robertson, “We often get the comment ‘we should have more of them’ because it brings the community together.”
All in all, Work Day creates the potential for students to engage in activities they may not normally partake in, meet people they may not have met before, and work in a part of campus they may have never visited. With no classes, students can honor the work they do on campus while celebrating and being productive. It creates an atmosphere where people can interact with others and work for the benefit of everyone. Some examples: all of the smoking huts were built during Work Day; some of the pathways were cleared and built during Work Day; the skateboard ramps were constructed on Work Day; lots of weeding and clearing of invasive species occurs on Work Day; and much more has happened on Work Day.
Work Day also allows students to create a legacy and leave a bit of their work and creativity on campus for years to come. Certainly, Work Day is a day to be remembered by all that partake, and it continues to improve with each passing year.