Campus bookstores are always coming up with creative ways to reach nontraditional students. Kansas City Kansas Community College found a way to engage nontraditional students and even some faculty members and staff with on-campus games of Dungeons & Dragons. We recently spoke with Chris Guthrie, operations assistant at KCKCC, about his success and how he tapped into the community’s sense of adventure.
What prompted the store to get involved with Dungeons & Dragons?
The college needed help with their Gamers Club, so I volunteered to help. Since I was a part of the college bookstore staff, I took on a leadership role within the group, and people started coming to me for answers and information. From there, my role transformed into an adviser for the group. My bookstore started out selling books and miniatures for the groups. Each group wanted something unique, so that kind of made it fun deciding what to get to represent them. We also have alumni that join in the festivities, and they are a major help. Creating the gaming club has helped to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion with everyone that has joined.
How long have you been selling D&D merchandise?
Our bookstore started selling miniatures and books in August, 2019. It started out as a slow process because we didn’t know how many students were interested. But we are six months in now, and we have had great success with the events and sell-through in the bookstore. It works well with me being an adviser, because they can come to me with exact items that they would like to see in the store, and my managers will evaluate if it is doable.
How have students responded to your D&D merchandise?
The longer we have done this, the more students have expressed their interest. This club is not just about playing games; it’s about helping introverted and many other types of students learn how to interact with people expressing their interest. To our surprise, we have even seen staff and faculty show interest in what we were doing. The students have taken advantage of how easy it is to buy their books, dice and miniatures from the store. Our location is a key factor, as the nearest gaming store is around 20 miles from the school and our prices are very competitive with those places. Although the sell through in the bookstore is promising, the overall goal of this club is to better our students in their everyday life. I have one student who has made it into the National Society of Leadership and Success, and this has made him much more confident as an individual. — something they may not have if the program didn’t exist
How long have you played Dungeons & Dragons?
I started playing D&D about eight years ago with a bunch of friends. I was one of those people that didn’t interact with groups or go to social events. When I was playing with other people in a group, that didn’t matter. I felt like I was a part of something and I felt a sense of belonging. From these settings, I learned to better understand others emotions and how to be more social. I have been working in customer service for about 10 years now, and I interact with many students, faculty and staff on a day to day basis.
Do you play Dungeons & Dragons in the store, or do you convene somewhere on campus?
As an Adviser, I reserve rooms for these events. This helps to ensure that we have enough room for other students, should they want to join in. I believe that the game sessions will take off and experience unprecedented growth; there are a lot of people who play these games. I believe this will spark an interest with a very diverse group of students, and potential students who haven’t yet considered coming here because they didn’t know about the type of college experience they would have. There is a vast number of people that take esports very seriously, and we want to bring those students to our college.
Do you use social media to share information about it?
We have a Facebook group set up for our club that allows us to inform members of up-to-date information on what’s going on, and what we have planned for upcoming events. We also use our bookstore’s Facebook page to inform students of any events that are happening around the school.
What would you recommend to other stores if they wanted to start something like this?
I would recommend someone from your store to try to become an adviser in the club. Help students with events and help them grow as individuals. Students will be forever thankful for you helping them succeed, if you put forth the effort to help them and show them what it means to be a successful person in life. The most important thing is to make everyone feel like they belong and include them in everything. We’re trying to get everyone engaged so they can become more comfortable with everything that our college offers to them.
Mr. Guthrie, has given many students who wouldn’t normally take part in school events a place to make friends and go on adventures together. To learn more about reaching non-traditional students, check out Reach Nontraditional Students in a Nontraditional Way.