Navarro Community College Bookstore Director, Terri Mitchell, knows how to host a successful campus event. Her bookstore organizes celebrations that promote the school, raise scholarship funds, bring prospective students to campus and foster deep ties with the college’s Texas community. This year, she co-led a talk about campus store events at the MEGA conference in Reno, Nevada, called “Food for Thought: What is your store worth to your campus and community?” It focused on creative ways to demonstrate your store’s value. Ms. Mitchell and her co-leader earned a standing ovation.
We sat down with Ms. Mitchell to talk about Navarro’s holiday event plans and how a campus bookstore can play a vital role in the community.
What advice would you offer a campus store planning a holiday event?
Artist: Tyler Melton
Beauregard the Bulldog
Go to your students. You’re here for them, so listen to what they have to say about what they want.
For last year’s holiday event, we went to our students and asked them what they liked. It turned out that they really loved the movie, The Polar Express. So, we came up with The Navarro Express. It had different stops throughout campus that led all the way to the president’s office. That brought in the community and prospective students from local high schools. Our tagline was “Destination Education: Get Your Ticket to Success.”
Last year was so popular, we decided to host this year’s event in our largest campus venue, the Cook Education Center. The students came up with the idea of making a Whoville – like in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But we’re going to call it Beauville, after our school mascot, Beauregard the Bulldog. We’ve partnered with the cosmetology department. They’re going to give everyone Whoville hair.
How do you communicate your store’s student-focused mission?
We have tried to really send out the message that everything we do is for the students. All the proceeds from our bookstore, after we have met the expenses, go directly to our students, to the college and to scholarships. Events help the bookstore give away several hundred thousand dollars each year. When you take that message out to the community, it really inspires people. They want to participate. Each semester, we have been able to give away $100,000 in scholarships or more.
How can a campus store afford events like these?
That’s a good question. Return on investment is important. But the cost of the Beauville event is nothing more than our time. We don’t have to pay to use the Cook Center, and we already own the merchandise. Partnering with campus departments and community businesses helps, too. They appreciate the opportunity. This year’s partnership with the cosmetology school will give their program great exposure.
And, yes, we’ll put in extra hours. But we feel like it’s worth it. You’ve got to think about more than your store. Only about one quarter of the people in our county in Texas have college degrees, either a bachelor’s or an associate’s. We want to raise that number. When you’re investing in your students, you’re investing in your future.
What has inspired you to work toward raising enrollment and retention?
Well, I’m a mom first. I have six children, four of which have attended Navarro. I know how important this school is and how much it means to our community. As a bookstore manager, you have to be aware of the challenges your school faces and the challenges students face. A lot of schools are struggling today.
I attended Navarro as an adult student. I remember how scary it was going back after I had children. If I can say or do something, anything, that helps someone stay in school, I want to do that. Whenever you feel like you can make a difference in someone’s life, it is so rewarding.