Bill Nye, Cody Ko, Demetrius Harmon, Yung Gravy, Carli Lloyd and Noel Miller. All prominent figures in entertainment and culture, and all were brought to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for an appearance within the past couple of years through the University Program Council (UPC).
UPC is the primary event programming organization on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. It works to host various types of campus events for the UNL community, including both students and staff. The organization has brought in plenty of notable talent, either through Zoom or in person, and all of it is free of charge to students.
According to Kirsten Wandrey, president of UPC, its mission involves providing entertainment and education programming to establish an engaging environment. Some programs are for entertainment, while others are more focused on education about different communities and diversity. Bringing in outside voices is important to the organization.
Nebraska’s geographical location typically hasn’t been a problem when it comes to booking popular guests. Wandrey and UPC found that many guests brought in had never been to Nebraska beforehand and were open to the new experience.
“Usually people are pretty willing to come in, especially if they enjoy speaking to college audiences, and especially if it’s a new place they haven’t gotten to go to before,” Wandrey said. “To our knowledge, we’ve never had anyone say no because we were located in Nebraska.”
UPC has been a part of UNL since 1938, originally being called the Union Program Council before expanding beyond the Nebraska Union to serve the entire UNL community. Once the Board of Regents passed a new policy on student fees in 1978, three organizations were established as institutionalized student organizations, better known as ISO’s. These were ASUN, The Daily Nebraskan, and UPC, each having their own office inside of the Nebraska Union.
UPC’s event budget comes from part of these student fees, where they get $6.34 per student. With this payment, students are allowed to get into any UPC event for free. Other necessary funding comes from a poster sale the staff hosts every semester. According to Wandrey, these two sources of financial backing make up their whole budget for each year. Fundraising pays for staff needs, while student fees only go toward hosting the events.
With funding secured, UPC moves on to booking speakers and venues for events. This begins with council members bringing proposals, followed by finding information on prices, looking for which agencies to contact and other logistical matters. From there, they move on to narrowing down the suggestions based on their findings. Part of this involves deciding whether or not a certain event would be the right kind of thing for UPC to host, based on appropriateness and relevance to UPC’s goals. Finally, planning for the following semester begins, a process that the entire council works together on.
For event selection matters, Chanasei Ziemann, primary programmer of UPC, does a lot of the heavy lifting in the month-long selection period. Her duties include contacting outside sources for potential speakers and working to establish event contracts. However, finding and agreeing on talent to bring in for events requires the entire team’s approval before Ziemann begins contracting processes.
Generally, UPC events are quite successful. According to Wandrey, their most recent show with Noel Miller saw about 700 attendees. Many others in the past, like their event featuring two-time Olympic gold medalist Carli Lloyd, brought in around 500 to 600. Their homecoming concerts at the Lied Center usually draw the biggest crowd, made possible with a 2,200-capacity venue.
While sometimes UPC may try to align their shows with certain performers’ tours in the area, they haven’t felt a limit on who they can reach out to due to location.
“We don’t really incentivize anything about Nebraska. I think our reputation as a university kind of stands for itself,” Ziemann said. “We bring students in attendance that makes it a successful event.”
Upcoming speakers for the spring 2022 semester include reality TV actress Chloe Veitch on April 8 and “The Daily” host Michael Barbaro on April 29. The selection process for fall 2022 events is in progress, with more information released once planning is complete.
“One of our past presidents, his dream event was always to bring Serena Williams, so I would have to say my dream event would be to bring her,” Wandrey said. “He would love it.”