Almost every Friday and Saturday night in the Student Union, UConn students have the opportunity to do anything from decorating cookies and stuffing plush foxes to playing bingo and singing karaoke.
A staple at the University since Fall 2003, UConn Late Night is a program under the department of Student Activities that hosts free entertainment and activities for all UConn students from 8-11pm on most weekends throughout the semester. Each “late night” typically has its own theme with several related activities, such as school supply giveaways and DIY sugar scrubs during “Back to School Scholars Night” on Jan. 21.
“[Late Night] is a really great opportunity for students to come together, meet each other, make new friends, and meet up with friends they already have in a safe space,” says Erin O’Keefe, a Program Coordinator in UConn Student Activities who oversees Late Night.
O’Keefe shares that as many as 300-400 students check out the events on a given night, staying for as long or as little as they want. Since all activities are free, the program provides a fun experience especially for students who don’t want or may not have the means to go off-campus. Nights with popular themes like “Harry Potter” or Disney also allow students with similar interests to gather together, and draw the most attendance along with weekends at the beginning of the semester.
Some students are “regulars” who come to Late Night on most or all weekends. Even frigid temperatures couldn’t stop animal science major Angelica Whitney ’26 (CAHNR) from going to “Safari Night” on Feb. 4.
“I enjoy coming to Late Night because I’m able to meet a lot of new people,” Whitney says. “I also like the different themes, especially ones that are interesting to me. ‘Boy Band Night’ was fun for me because I like a lot of music.”
Late Night student worker Kesslyn Ward ’23 (CLAS), a double major in political science and human rights, had the idea for the highly successful “‘Stranger Things’ Night” last semester, where she transformed into Vecna, the show’s villain, while students could roller skate, eat waffles and ice cream, and play trivia. Ward says that Late Night helped her find a sense of community when she transferred to UConn a few years ago.
“[The program] adds consistency to everyone’s weekly schedule because there’s people that just make time out of their day to come to Late Night,” Ward says. “Even some of my friends will come visit me, and it’s like this whole little community of people who come to Late Night.”
Ward works with 16 other students under the advisement of O’Keefe and graduate assistant Pedro Santiago ’23 MA. With seven new faces among the student staff, the program has experienced some restructuring, which Ward says was hard at first, but ultimately adds more flexibility. In the new structure, student workers collaborate in “pods” of four, planning themes and events for certain weekends, often a semester ahead of when they will occur.
“It’s usually a very collaborative circle of people and ideas, and even if some of our ideas are very far-fetched, we still find a way to pull it all together, and that’s what I really like about it,” Ward says.
Throughout the semester, each group captains the nights they planned, leading the different activities with their coworkers and watching their ideas come to life. Ward notes that some events can be fairly stressful, such as whenever students come in droves for a chance to stuff their own plush toy. She also shares, though, that the Late Night staff works well under pressure, enjoying these nights and spreading their enthusiasm to others.
“I hope when people come to Late Night that they take something new out of it, whether that be a community, or they get involved in something they wouldn’t normally do like karaoke, which I know is a big hit,” Ward says. “It takes a lot of guts to do that, and I think we do a good job of helping people get out of their comfort zone in a good way.”
This semester, students can look forward to events like “Nostalgia Night” and a Cupid Shuffle Valentine’s Dance. With several already successful nights so far, O’Keefe is excited to see the largely new staff continue to develop and execute great events for all UConn students.
“My favorite part [of programming] is working with our Late Night team because they’re such a diverse group of students, and they really care about each other and the UConn community,” O’Keefe says. “They care about what students want, and they are truly invested in our actual program.”