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Program Board brings big names to campus

When Alee'a Ulsh-Cherry realized she wanted to make an impact at Central Michigan University, she went to Program Board.

Last year, the Canton senior joined the student-run organization that facilitates on-campus concerts and events. As director of public relations, Ulsh-Cherry has a big role in deciding which acts to book for performances.

For the past year, Program Board members have been dedicated to planning the April 21 DNCE concert.

Since its creation, Program Board has brought several well-known artists to CMU’s campus. Ranging from the upcoming DNCE concert to Ozzy Osbourne in 1983 to Ke$ha in 2011, Program Board works to host various low-cost events.

“It's a great feeling to see us accomplish things week after week due to our dedication behind the scenes,” Ulsh-Cherry said.

Ulsh-Cherry helped promote the Back to School Comedy Jam in September. Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Jay Pharoah, Michael Blackson and D.C. Young Fly, both of "Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'n Out," performed at the event.

She said seeing hundreds of students packed inside the McGuirk Arena was an "adrenaline rush."

“It's honestly an indescribable feeling when you see an event turn out to be successful,” she said. “When events that we don't expect to see high numbers end up having great attendance, it makes the feeling 10 times better.

“It's nice to see a diverse set of students take time out of their day to come out and enjoy entertainment we booked.”

The Back to School Comedy Jam was free for students, and cost the organization 20 percent of their annual budget.

Program Board usually receives $295,000 per year but was allocated an additional $30,000 from the Campus Program Fund this year, said Damon Brown, the director of Program Board. He said the additional funds allowed them to host CMU's “the biggest comedy show” in the past decade.

“That (additional) money was used for the fall comedy show, which made it a free show for students,” Brown said. “We turned that money around and gave it right back to the students in terms of a free show.”

The majority of the board's budget goes toward inviting speakers, musicians and comedians to campus. Program Board also organizes smaller events such as Pinterest parties and movie showings.

Program Board’s Claim to Fame

This year, Program Board is bringing DNCE to campus.

Formed by Joe Jonas, the dance-pop band’s debut single “Cake By the Ocean” reached No. 9 on Billboard’s "Hot 100" and No. 1 on Billboard’s "Adult Top 40."

Concert tickets cost $16 for upper bowl, $22 for lower bowl and $27 for floor seats.

Brown said Program Board is allocating a large portion of their budget toward the show but is hoping the remaining part will be covered by ticket sales.

The group is hoping to pre-sell out the show, which has only happened “once or twice” in the past, said Program Board’s Executive Director Angie Distelrath. Since announcing the spring concert, the group has held two ticket blitz sales for students to have the chance to buy tickets at a reduced prices.

“I think we were able to get a good head start getting the word out with our marketing,” Distelrath said. “With the reaction to the announcement that DNCE would be performing, we think we are going to have a good number in sales.”

DNCE will perform in McGuirk Arena on April 21. Depending on availability, tickets will be sold at the door.

After months of surveying students, the Program Board brings one to two big-name artists to perform each year.

Program Board begins planning their line-up a semester ahead of time. The group focuses on bringing entertainment to students that fit the interests of the entire student body.

The organization brought a literal circus to campus in April 1974 when Program Board sponsored two performances by the Royal Hanneford Circus. According to the Central Michigan Life event coverage, the elephants had entered the Rose Center on their knees as they were too large to fit through the doors.

Other events didn’t feature high ropes, but instead high hope — several speakers were brought to campus including a woman using interactive games to promote body acceptance and a soldier sharing his story of recovering from PTSD.

“A lot of times when we’re looking at what defines a success or a successful event is one of those times where the people who are there and the students who are attending the event got something out of it,” said Adam Isley, the adviser of Program Board. “There’s speakers who bring a powerful message. It’s not always about numbers. It’s about providing a good experience for the students who are there. It’s great to be part of that.”

Isley’s main role is providing support and guiding the organization, so he said watching members’ faces light up as they look at the events and see the good job they did is the best part.

Those people in the audience are appreciative of the performance, but unaware of the hard work Program Board members dedicated to it. It’s thankless work, he said, but worth it when he sees the difference it’s making to both the audience and the members.


To Brown, Program Board is a way to feed student’s college experience. Looking at the “total college experience,” it’s not just comprised of what happens inside the classroom, but outside of it, he said.

“With 20,000 students on campus, it’s hard to have something for everybody, but we’ve done a great job providing diverse entertainment to students each year,” Brown said. “Hopefully every student finds something on the Program Board calendar that they want to come out and participate in because it is their dollars.”

Program Board is composed of general members and an executive board. The executive board is made up of special event co-chairs, a comedy director, a concert director and a lecture director. There is also a public relations team and an executive director who oversees the board.

“(Members) must be engaged, want to participate and want to be the voice for all of the students on campus,” Distelrath said. “It is really just that drive we are looking for in members — to really be buying into the experience and wanting to be a part of it.”

There is no fee to become a member of Program Board. The group meets at 8 p.m. every Wednesday in the University Center Mackinaw Room. General meetings begin with announcements about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, followed by a review of past events. The executive board also provided their members with different professional development opportunities that will allow them to excel in their chosen field.

“You don’t have to be majoring in special events or public relations to be a part of Program Board,” Distelrath said. “I think that’s cool because it gives us the dynamics to have different perspectives in different areas that are reached on campus.”