Quinnipiac students unite and volunteer for the ‘Big Event’

Krystal Miller, Staff Writer

The Quinnipiac community volunteered for over 100 nonprofit organizations for the Big Event on April 9. Photo by (Connor Lawless)

Students gathered together on a foggy day with shovels in hand to create a garden that will soon be home to a variety of plants.

At this year’s Big Event, around 1,600 volunteers from Quinnipiac University engaged in community service activities on April 9, at approximately 100 sites across Hamden and New Haven areas.

Quinnipiac’s students, faculty, staff and alumni form teams and lend a helping hand to over 100 nonprofit organizations across the state.

Fiona Doull, a graduate student in the 3+1 public relations program, is the public relations co-chair of the Big Event. She started as a committee member on PR during her sophomore year, which has evolved from a virtual event in 2020 to in person once again.

Doull said joining the event fulfills her love for participating in community service and affords her the chance to use her passion in PR by creating social media posts and graphics.

“I think my favorite part is the day of (the Big Event), because we spend all year planning this event and seeing it all come together on this last day is super exciting,” Doull said. “Just seeing everyone come back all wearing their T-shirts, and they are talking about the work they did and what a good time they had, so I think it’s really nice to see all our hard work come together and the event finally happen.”

The event is great to attend on campus because students can meet new people and work together, Doull said. A lot of students aren’t from Connecticut, she said, so they are lucky to be able to go to school here and be involved in an event like this.

“Normally we would expect and hope to have more volunteers but we are really happy with the outcome we had,” Doull said. “We are really happy we were able to send over 800 students this year to different sites in the Hamden, New Haven, North Haven area so we are pleased with the turnout this year and hopefully we will grow more and more.”

This is Quinnipiac’s 13th annual Big Event, which was established by former Vice President of Public Relations of the Student Government Association Jen Walts. The Big Event takes place at different colleges across the U.S. and was started by Texas A&M University in 1982.

One example of community service was volunteers helping create a pollinator garden at the Albert Schweitzer Institute. There are different garden beds such as ones for bee-pollinated plants, shrubberies and a rainbow section that will include various colors and an Indigenous section with relative herbs.

Photo by (Connor Lawless)

Sarah Lawson, assistant professor of biology, is conducting a research project on pollinator health and nutrition. As part of her research, she helped put together this event.

A pollinator is an animal, like a bee, that moves pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of the flower. 

Last summer, Lawson sampled the garden to see what pollinators were there and their diversity. It is a multi-year project that will continue to be resampled to see how it impacts colony diversity in the area.

“There’s been a lot in the news of putting in pollinator gardens, and we wanted some actual data to support what you can actually replace in your garden by bringing back native plants,” Lawson said.

Lawson said she loves seeing people join together outside and being able to get dirty, even in the rain. The group can come back and visit, she said, in order to see how the plants have grown over time.

“I’m just wowed by the number of students, we have some alumni coming back, I have some students from my classes, some of my research students are here, so I’m really impressed with the amount of participation,” Lawson said.

People in the community can visit the pollinator garden, and there will be activities as well as QR codes to learn about the plants so people can grow their native plants in their houses.

Brooklyn Mastracchio, a first-year occupational therapy major, explained how the group did soil testing in the fall to measure the PH to see what plants go where.

“Our team captain emailed us and we wanted to get more involved because we are freshmen, so we thought this would be fun.” Mastraccio said.

Abdoulaye Jobe, a graduate student in the 4+1 business administration and management program, said he joined the event to help Lawson with her project.

“It is my fifth year here, but it’s actually my first time going to the Big Event,” Jobe said. “I won’t be here next year, but it’s a really cool thing doing this at Quinnipiac.”

Jobe said helping out with everyone and getting a workout is part of the fun.

“I think there’s more community with this event, a lot more Quinnipiac students come out, and also it’s not based on organization so it’s open to everyone,” Jobe said.

One of the activities at the Big Event Allowed volunteers to help plant the pollinator garden at the Albert Schweitzer Institute. Photo by (Connor Lawless)

Callie Lanzel, a senior biology major, started participating in the event because she is doing research in the pollinator garden with Lawson. As a student who transferred to Quinnipiac last year, she said she enjoyed the chance to be more involved at Quinnipiac. The outreach that this event has is what makes it different from others on campus, Lanzel said.

“I think some people are going to the shore to clean up, people are cleaning up cemeteries, so it’s not just the Quinnipiac community it’s all this central Connecticut down to the coast outreach which I think is very unique,” Lanzel said.

Lanzel wants to help bring back native pollinators to this area of Connecticut, giving them a space to reproduce, get food and be supported.

“I think my favorite part of this experience is just seeing so many people come together, we have alumni, we have undergraduates, we have professors working hand in hand in a bunch of different areas supporting the community,” Lanzel said.