Before a new school year begins, Towson University’s campus recreation department showcases its annual report by utilizing a creative storyboard layout.
Grady Sheffield, the director of campus recreation at Towson University, said for the past six years they summarize the previous year’s major happenings by using a storyboard format. The strategy continues to receive positive feedback from the community.
“Annual reports are boring, right?” said Sheffield. “It’s just black and white numbers on pages. It usually fits to divisional presidential priorities and strategic plans. No one likes to read annual reports for it. The storyboard is exciting. We said, ‘Let’s make this less of a report and more like telling our story.’ In fact, we stopped calling it an annual report.”
The storyboard is made to look like a magazine by including a cover page and a few pages of content enhanced by images and visual aids. They use specific templates, fonts and brandmarks to fall in line with the institution’s brand standards.
By using this format, Sheffield insists their annual findings make more of an impact on the department and campus community.
Towson University structures its annual storyboard through the following sections:
- Vision, Mission and Values
- Organizational Chart
- Fall and Spring Semester Roundups
- Campus Rec By the Numbers
- Timelines/Updates of Importance
- Rec Connections
- Hello, Goodbye — new hires and departing faces
While it is important to include the department’s core values and organizational chart, Sheffield said they wanted to add a “personal touch” to the storyboard showcasing what was unique about a given year.
For example, the 2020 storyboard included an alumni feature. It’s about two former student employees who worked at Towson’s outdoor adventure center and ended up marrying each other.
That storyboard also includes a COVID-19 timeline detailing how campus recreation navigated that pandemic.
“There was discussion of, ‘Do we even do the storyboard?’” said Sheffield. “And my response was, ‘Absolutely we’re going to do it.’ It’s part of our story. It’s not just about the good things, right? It’s the challenging things as well, and to me, that’s important people know what we did, what we went through and how we had to persevere.”
After completion, employees acquire it and campus recreation’s website features it. Respective candidates interviewing for jobs in the department also receive it.
Sheffield said the most important aspect of the annual storyboard is to use the words of participants and student employees so they can describe the impact participation in campus rec programs and services have on them or the campus community.
“My boss, our assistant vice president of Campus Life, gets this,” said Sheffield. “His boss, the vice president of Student Affairs, and then the president gets this. And every time we give it to them, they’re blown away by what it is and the impact that it has. It puts a mark on us. This gives a voice to our story.”
How the Storyboard is Made
Towson’s marketing department is made up of an assistant director, a graduate assistant and 15 student employees who include graphic designers, photographers and videographers.
Every year, a graphic designer from the marketing department puts together the project. Once completed, the student can put the storyboard in their portfolio to use when looking for a job after college.
Sheffield said they also have a “street team” of students who go out and engage with the rest of campus. Quotes gathered from students around the university are then used in the storyboard.
But the focus of the assessment is still to achieve three goals for campus recreation: To support the “why” of their programs, drive their decision-making process, and for student employee training and performance in terms of evaluation.
“The other cool thing that happens is every year the staff are waiting for this and asking for it — which is pretty cool,” said Sheffield. “It creates buy-in for what we’re doing in terms of assessment as well.”
To view Towson’s 2020 storyboard, follow this link.
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