Willingness to help out is one thing. It’s something else entirely to say yes to every request. Marquette University’s rec center takes that willingness to another level, accepting virtually every facility request that comes their way.
“It’s an unwritten policy,” said John Sweeney, the director of campus recreation at Marquette. “I want us to have a reputation on campus as being the people who can work with anybody. We will entertain any request, within reason.”
And that policy, known as the “Just Say Yes” policy, according to Sweeney, has given the rest of campus a great impression of Marquette’s rec center. “People have told me they can always count on us and we’re always there to lend a helping hand,” he said. “That’s who we are, and we work hard to keep that reputation.”
That constant willingness to be a yes man might seem a bit extreme, but the idea came from Sweeney’s own passion for helping those around him. And it has translated well to campus recreation.
“I guess [the policy] came from my own belief,” said Sweeney. “We kind of look at ourselves as a big family, and I see our department as part of a bigger family. People know who we are and will use us for special events all the time.”
The most special event Marquette’s rec center recently hosted was the new university president’s inauguration reception. According to Sweeney, the gym was “transformed” into a ballroom, complete with white linens and a chandelier. “You would’ve never known you were in a gymnasium,” he joked.
In addition to hosting campus-wide events, “Just Say Yes” has positively affected recruiting for the university. “We are always in the mode of recruiting and retention,” said Sweeney. “We might be the first experience anyone has with Marquette, and if it’s a positive one, hopefully they’ll remember they had a good experience with our rec center. And maybe they’ll consider attending Marquette.”
Hosting anything from community basketball tournaments to the Special Olympics to charity events allows Marquette’s rec center to keep a strong connection to the rest of campus. At the end of the day, Sweeney’s goal is to use the rec center as a positive influence on campus and in the community.
“It comes down to your mission,” said Sweeney. “Our policy happens to stem from my personal belief, but it also lines up with the university’s mission. You have to think globally and get out of the silo — realize we’re all part of something bigger.”