Frank Warren at last year's WOW-A-RAMA. Warren is the pioneer of WOW-A-RAMA, which he started 21 years ago. Courtesy photo.

When Frank Warren graduated from Cal Poly in 1989, WOW-A-RAMA did not exist. Add a proposition from the Week of Welcome (WOW) board and fast forward 20 years later and Warren is now the host.

WOW-A-RAMA, which takes place on the first night of WOW, is an evening full of social group games to help new students get to know one another. Prior to Warren, a company was paid to host an event on the first night of WOW, called PlayFair, Warren said.

He said he wondered why Cal Poly was spending large quantities of money to bring someone in when they could just do it themselves.

“The more I got involved with leadership in WOW, I commented a few times about how we needed something more Cal Poly specific,” he said.

Warren worked his way up the WOW ladder beginning his sophomore year when he signed on to be a WOW counselor, now known as an Orientation Leader. The next year he was part of WOW team, and his senior year Warren was a member of the WOW board, the highest tier of students involved in WOW.

That was when the WOW board made him a proposition: “If you think you can do better, then why don’t we pay you a quarter of what we pay them to see if you can do it,” Warren said.

Warren took on the challenge in 1990.

Warren, a Cal Poly graduate, has been involved with both the San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly community since he was a young adult.

A San Luis Obispo High School graduate, Warren received his undergraduate degree from Cal Poly in speech communication in 1989 as well as his graduate degree in public policy from Cal Poly. Warren said he was interested in exploring KCPR, Cal Poly’s radio station.

“My real intent for going to (Cal Poly) was to work at the radio station,” Warren said.

Warren attended elementary and middle school around the same time that Weird Al worked at KCPR and thought he would get a career working in the industry, he said.

Even though he was interested in being involved at Cal Poly, his initial aspirations weren’t to be involved with leadership for Week of Welcome (WOW).

“I went through WOW and had a blast,” Warren said. The only other WOW experience Warren had had until that point was through “WOW record” — a six minute commercial for WOW that aired on KCPR.

After taking on the job, Warren said his goal became to do something completely different every year since PlayFair was the same thing every year.

Before the event was changed to WOW-A-RAMA, Warren said, WOW leaders were not involved. Instead, they sat up in the bleachers while the incoming students played the games, so his goal was to create something that the leaders would like too. This way, the new the students participating in WOW — known around campus as Wowies — would also be more inclined to participate, he said.

Eric Cerney, computer engineering senior and member of the 2010 WOW Board, said it’s important for people to branch out of their comfort zone and to get involved in the event.

“I was pretty reserved when I first came here, but having so many people out there not caring and seeing the WOW leaders (involved) was when I started to branch out,” Cerney said.

Aside from WOW-A-RAMA, Warren is an active member of the community. Currently, he is the division manager for the Mental Health Services Act programs for San Luis Obispo County. He oversees “all of the county’s prevention programs in alcohol and mental health,” he said. Part of his job is to work with local high school students to teach them about alcohol and drug prevention.

Jason Mockford, assistant coordinator of Orientation Programs at Cal Poly, said Warren is a valuable asset to Cal Poly because he knows about new techniques that work to help keep kids off of alcohol, among other things.

“I think (Warren) is a great connection for the university to have because he lets us know about the (mentality of the) high school students that are coming in,” Mockford said. “He’s an extremely valuable resource to us.”

“Working with an alcohol free program (such as WOW) really encouraged me to do this type of work,” Warren said.

Warren is also the Friday Night Live (FNL) coordinator, and has been directing since 1994, he said. FNL is a program held at high schools and middle schools across the county that focuses on inspiring healthy youth development.

He also helps out with orientation programs at other schools, such as at St. Mary’s and the University of California, Davis.

“A lot of the reasoning behind Warren hosting WOW-A-RAMA is to show students that they can have a lot of fun without having to drink,” Cerney said. “He also likes to show students that they can contact him if they’re having problems with drinking related issues or even just life in general.”

Warren said he wants students to see WOW-A-RAMA as a great example of something fun that doesn’t involve alcohol.

“I hope you look back to WOW-A-RAMA and think, ‘Yes, I really can and I did have a great time that night,’” he said.

Liberal studies junior and second year Orientation Leader Nicole Rodgers said she enjoyed her first WOW-A-RAMA.

“At my first WOW-A-RAMA I was in awe of this energetic man talking really fast,” she said. “Warren isn’t just apart of WOW-A-RAMA, he is WOW-A-RAMA. Frank WOW-A-RAMA, really, that’s what I call him.”

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