Because they're 'Happy': SWIC students have fun with Pharrell's hit song

News-DemocratApril 20, 2014 

It doesn't take much to make students happy at Southwestern Illinois College.

Recently, the Concert Choir was swinging and clapping, the police academy grads were swaying (a bit stiffly) in uniform and a baseball player hit the dirt to do the worm in the dugout.

The inspiration? The upbeat hit "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.

All it took was for the school marketing department's Melanie Reinhardt and Logan Short to show up on the Belleville campus with a video camera and play the song.

"This has been so much fun," said Melanie. "I've been listening to that song a lot -- really a lot -- and I still want to dance to it!"

When Staci Clayborne, vice president of student development, brought the idea to Melanie and Logan, they leapt into action. Staci said she heard about the idea through friends on Facebook.

"They were posting other colleges (dancing to the song) and I thought, 'SWIC has to do this!'" she said. "I thought it would be an awesome marketing tool, where we could show those not familiar with SWIC what we could offer -- to be all-inclusive and have it attached to the hottest song."

Melanie and Logan spent several weeks recording the creative moves of students and employees in various locations at the Belleville and Granite City campuses, all jiving -- each in his own way -- to "Happy."

Fire Science students in full gear held a long ladder and stepped in unison. An Aviation Maintenance Technology student leaned out of a cockpit and fist-pumped.

The response has been pretty automatic: Everybody wants to dance, said Logan.

He's the cameraman, editor and director, giving dancers the sign when it's time to dance. Melanie hits the portable speaker and "Happy" feet occur.

"Boston College got 100 students" to dance to the song, she told SWIC baseball players as a handful offered to show off their blue jerseys and bust a move.

They hoped to capture the most "dancers" in action and provide a little competition. No problem.

"We have such a diverse group of students," Melanie said. "We totaled it up again and now have 300 students, 50 employees and 49 locations" in the video.

That includes Kashmir the college mascot showing off his moves on the terrace of the new Liberal Arts Complex and nursing students dancing with medical mannequins.

Of course, not everyone wanted to participate.

"I tell them that if they don't dance, they'll stick out like a sore thumb," said Logan. So, some step aside.

Camera-shy baseball players stood out on the ball field as less-inhibited fellow athletes did their thing in the dugout, including pitcher Jake Henzler, 18, of Okawville. He dropped to the ground and wormed his way across the grass.

Earlier, newly minted police officers stood at attention in uniform outside the cafeteria. Graduation was that night.

"Most of the time they've been told what's going to happen before we come," said Melanie, eyeballing the stalwart expressions on the faces lined up in front of her. "It's up to the instructor to tell them."

This group didn't know.

"OK. Everybody look at the camera. We're going to start the music. I'm going to count to three, then dance," Logan said, holding up fingers, then pointing for action.

Nobody moved.

Time for one more take. There was twisting from one officer, what looked to be pantomiming of starting a chainsaw from another, but mostly sedate hip-shaking while wearing duty belts laden with handcuffs, guns and more.

That day's most ebullient group was the Concert Choir.

Choir director Andy Jensen gave the cue and students tranformed from singing in perfect harmony to a gyrating, clapping mass.

"Ham it up!" shouted Logan as he swung the camera around and climbed the risers.

No problem. Hands pushed skyward. In the top row, what looked like the bugaloo was going on. Hannah Cook, there to accompany on the violin, got into the act, too, bobbing, spinning and pointing her bow.

Then the choir started singing along. In harmony.

"Ah, they won't hear that!" said Logan to the room.

It didn't matter that the video only recorded actions to the song. Everybody still looked happy.

Want to see the video? Go to swic.edu/happy, on SWIC's facebook page and at YouTube(SWIC Happy Video).

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