In its 20th year, Maryland Day reaches out to the PG county community

 

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Maryland Day attendees fish for Testudo toys at the Omicron Delta Kappa fountain on McKeldin Mall. Photos by Ally Tobler.

 

By Kelly Zheng

The University of Maryland held its 20th annual Maryland Day, its largest annual outreach event, on April 28 with a focus on connecting the surrounding community.

“The event is a great opportunity to showcase the work students and faculty are doing to transform the community, the state and the world,” Cynthia Martinez said in an email, director of brand marketing for the Office of Strategic Communications.

In particularly pleasant weather conditions, alumni, current students, prospective students and other visitors attended Maryland Day. The event traditionally welcomes around 75,000 people. This year exceeded that number, Martinez said.

She added that the strategic communications team created a “Top 20 at 20” list of events and commemorative pins to encourage visits to both new and traditional Maryland Day events within the six “learning neighborhoods” throughout campus. Guests were also able to use an interactive map on the website to plan ahead.  

Some activities on the list included a cooking stage, fishing for Testudo at the ODK fountain, a tour of the wind tunnel and an insect petting zoo. The commemorative pins included an ice cream cone design, “M” shaped pencil and Testudo.

Alumni Alida Fenner and Nichelle Owens said they were proud to attend the event and return to campus. They have been to about five of the annual events since they graduated in 1992. They looked forward to meeting up with classmates and seeing how the university has changed.

“Maryland Day is a good way to allow the public to interface with the university,” Owens said. “This year’s has great weather and is well-organized—by far one of the better layouts. It seems more spread out and manageable compared to previous ones.”

Fenner said there were many academic departments showcased this year in “Terp Town Center,” on McKeldin Mall, remembering that previous ones had a less educational focus and carnival-like activities instead.

As in the past, the event lasted for half of the day. Fenner said it may be difficult for some families to attend because of other commitments, and perhaps holding the event for longer hours or over the entire weekend would allow more people to come.

“I didn’t notice too many changes except some booths were in different places,” Alumna Amanda DeLand said. “If departments update their content, I think it’s good to keep it this way for people who don’t get a chance to visit an activity to go back in the future.”

DeLand said she has been coming for about 11 years and loves getting free plants from “Ag Day Avenue,” a venue near the Animal Sciences Building. She also enjoyed the cooking demo that gave samples of the university’s dining hall options.

“The essence of Maryland Day is the same,” Martinez said. “Although this year, we were interested in attracting more current students and local area residents. We focused on encouraging guests to ‘Come to College Park.’”

Activities in “Science and Tech Way” near the Kim Engineering Building intrigued junior electrical engineering major Aranje Sripanjalingam to attend the event. He said this year he still enjoyed nitrogen ice cream they’ve had since he started coming to Maryland Day two years ago.

However, Sripanjalingam said not everyone may know about the indoor activities since they are somewhat hidden. He said additional signs or people giving directions could have invited more foot traffic.

Freshman government and politics major Kayla Cohen said she been to Maryland Day once, before she was a student at the university. She said the new pins motivated her to visit each neighborhood so she could collect all of them. She said first-timers should plan ahead to ensure they are not aimlessly wandering.

It was Burtonsville resident Mila Wilson and her 5-year-old’s first time attending. She said she found the map useful and enjoyed the educational yet fun activities. She added that the day gave kids an opportunity to explore college.

As strategic communications plan next year’s Maryland Day, Martinez said, “We hope guests who visit the university feel that they are as much a part of the campus community, as they are a part of their [own].”

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