This case study will cover the 2018 Big Event at the University of Mississippi and Texas A&M University. Before its inception, there was no active way for students to connect with community members through service.
Problems and Purpose
The purpose of the Big Event is not to have as many projects as possible nor as many participants as possible.  It is not based on socioeconomic need. The purpose of the Big Event is to unite the community and students by performing good deeds directed toward “thanking” the community. Before its inception, there was no active way for students to connect with community members through service. There were normal volunteer opportunities, but no official way for students to officially as a collective body give thanks to the community. This case study covers the 2018 Big Event in the United States at the University of Mississippi and Texas A&M University.
Background History and Context
The Big Event was started in 1982 at Texas A&M University by Student Government Association Vice-President, Joe Nussbaum. The Big Event was started as a way for students to thank the community. The idea of the Big Event was to show appreciation to College Station and Bryan residents for their support of students. The core values of the Big Event from its website are below:
The Big Event at Texas A&M University is an organization that strives to uphold the ideals of unity and service. This one-day event is not based on socioeconomic need, but rather, it is a way for the student body to express their gratitude to the community that supports Texas A&M. It is important to remember The Big Event is not about the number of jobs completed or the number of students who participate each year. Instead, it is the interaction between students and residents, and the unity that results throughout the community that makes The Big Event so unique.
Since 1982, Texas A&M has been conducting a Big Event annually and the movement has caught the attention of other schools that have created their own Big Event. At the University of Mississippi, the first Big Event was in 2013 and has been conducted annually ever since.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Big Event is an independent, student-run organization that usually falls within the Student Government Association or Student Activities Association at each individual university at which it is located. Funding generally comes from donations and fundraisers setup by each school’s individual organizing committee. Because The Big Event is student-run, there is minimal faculty involvement. The Big Event is an individual entity at each United States university, but Texas A&M helps to organize a conference for other schools to learn and discuss best practices that is conducted annually. In 2019, the conference was held at Virginia Tech University.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The Big Event is open to all students and is advertised across campus using different modes of communication. Projects are open to residents, and no task is too large or small in a voluntary self-selection process. Community outreach is extremely important in getting residents involved. At the University of Mississippi ____ students volunteered.  At Texas A&M, participation in 2018 amounted to more than 20,000 student volunteers.
Methods and Tools Used
An enormous amount of work goes into planning and facilitating The Big Event. Each school has different committees, but at the University of Mississippi there were six committees that each had a director to make up the executive committee. The executive committee includes the directors and co-directors from the following committees: logistics, transportation and leadership, public relations, finance, projects, and volunteer and recruitment retention. The executive committee works year round to plan and prepare for the big day. Email and social media are tools used in the participatory activities, as well as text messaging. Project selection is a very important process that involves community members submitting a proposal for a project either online or via telephone. Then, pairs or groups of students visit project sites to ensure feasibility and safety of the projects. Once approved, projects were matched with student groups based on the numbers of volunteers to sign-up, and groups were allotted to the projects to fill the necessary minimums that projects required. Each student group has a team leader that is designated to facilitate.
Committee members are present at the kick-off and might travel to particular sites, but are not a part of student groups during The Big Event. One interesting aspect of The Big Event is that groups are randomly assigned. Student volunteers are grouped to feel the need of projects.  Volunteers have the opportunity to not only interact and make new student friends, but also have the chance to make connections in the community.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Before the actual “event,” the executive committee meets to prepare and plan. The executive committee was responsible for planning and execution on the day of The Big Event, so a lot of work was done behind the scenes before the event took place.  Most executive members have sub-committees that are responsible for more specific details like transportation planning, logistical planning, and fundraising. At The Big Event on March 24, 2018 at the University of Mississippi, volunteers arrived between 8:00 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. at the Pavilion on campus at Ole Miss in Mississippi. Upon arrival, volunteers received breakfast and a t-shirt to wear during the day. At The Big Event giveaways and prizes were given out as an incentive to participants. Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill and Ole Miss Head Football Coach, Matt Luke were the motivational speakers. Mayor Tannehill stressed the importance of service and giving back to the community.  Coach Luke said, “One of my definitions of success is – and I tell my players this all the time – you have to leave a place better than you found it. Everybody here knows that Ole Miss is special because of the tight-knit community, and what you’re doing today is just going to help that.” Students were then dismissed to their various projects and performed service work for community members like cleaning gutters, picking weeds, and aiding the elderly with various projects. Participation at the University of Mississippi in 2018 was more than 2000 volunteers. Local media outlets and school papers covered The Big Event.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The Big Event does not focus on policy changes or bringing any social issues to light. However, it does increase the communal appreciation and relationship between college students and college town residents. In 2018, Texas A&M students served more than 2400 individual projects. At the University of Mississippi, students are given the opportunity to see parts of Oxford and Lafayette County that they would not otherwise see. The Big Event provides a service to the community and builds a relationship between students and community members. The Big Event at both Texas A&M and Ole Miss was successful in both connecting students with the community and giving back to the community. At Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said, “As Ole Miss Rebels, service and community engagements are key values to our institution because the impact that we make touches not only our community but really our nation collectively, and with these opportunities we have a responsibility to reach out and make a difference in our world.”
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The participatory portion of The Big Event is of the utmost importance. Executive Director Mary Morgan Coburn said that showing gratitude to the community was the mission. Students had the opportunity to have fun and fulfill serving the community in the process. Overall, The Big Event proved to be an opportunity for students and the community to become one and gave students a chance to see a different side of the city.
 What is the big event?. (2019, January 16). Retrieved October 2, 2019, from https://bigevent.tamu.edu/about/.
 Core values. (2019, January 16). Retrieved October 2, 2019, from https://bigevent.tamu.edu/about/.
 History of the big event. (2019, January 16). Retrieved October 2, 2019, from https://bigevent.tamu.edu/about/.
 Pitts, J. “Personal observations of The Big Event 2018,” University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS” (March 24, 2018).
 One Big Thanks (2019, January 16). Retrieved October 22, 2019, from https://bigevent.tamu.edu/conference/.
 https://participedia.net/method/4939 and https://participedia.net/method/5410
 Russell, K. “Ole miss hosts 8th big event, largest service project in school history”. The Daily Mississippian. (March 24, 2018). Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://thedmonline.com/ole-miss-hosts-8th-big-event-largest-service-project-in-school-history/.
The first version of this case entry was written by Dillon Pitts, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and then edited. The views expressed in the entry are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.