Student Life director explains significant speaker selection process and financial requirements

UCCS is paying former Nickelodeon actor Josh Peck up to $50,000 for the annual significant speaker event on April 17.

Peck is best known for his time on “Drake and Josh,” a popular children’s sitcom from the early 2000s. Director of Student Engagement Stephen Cucchiara said the amount significant speakers are paid typically ranges from $20,000 and $50,000; this covers the speaker and their team’s appearance fee, transportation, lodging and airfare.

Cucchiara emphasized that the significant speaker is heavily based on choice made via a student- led subcommittee. “We are student led and staff-supported,” he said.

A selected staff of seven students have their own committee with the main role of guiding the smaller subcommittee. The number changes based on the year, but it is typically made up of seven or eight students.

Students are selected so that the subcommittee has a diversity of opinions. Cucchiara said that the subcommittee has had resident assistants, club leaders and more. The selected students are also encouraged to gain insight from club leaders and their peers to give them a better understanding of what students want.

The subcommittee of students comes together with its UCCS staff counterpart to brainstorm what they want out of a speaker. The finalists are determined by the subcommittee, and a vote is sent out to the general student population.

This year, the two most voted options were Leslie David Baker and Kate Flannery, better known as Meredith and Stanley from “The Office” as a duo, and Peck. The students in the subcommittee wanted someone who was relatable and inspirational this year, so they decided on Peck, according to Cucchiara.

In previous years, students in the subcommittee have chosen the likes of Angela Davis and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

After Peck was selected, an agency that represents him was contacted to negotiate pricing and other terms. Money made goes back into the event, but upfront money to pay for the speaker comes from many different places.

“I look to make it more of a collaborative effort,” Cucchiara said, “so resident life contributes funding, student life contributes funding, the university contributes … the division of DEI contributes funding and then, at times, I’ll go out and solicit a sponsorship from different community partners to see if there is any interest.”

The goal is to put on a good event. Cucchiara said that the event is purely for student enjoyment and will create a good atmosphere and sense of community at UCCS.

There are times in the past where significant speakers have been reassessed. For example, in the past, Bill Nye came to speak at UCCS. At the time, Cucchiara said there were online rumors of Nye dealing with alcohol problems.

In times of controversy, the committee assesses the validity of the controversy, the severity of the issue and its relevancy to the talk. Cucchiara said that in the case of Nye, the committee deemed the rumors to not be problematic to the talk that he was going to give.

Cuchiarra said that something similar happened pertaining to rumors with Peck. The 2024 documentary “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” details the mistreatment of Nickelodeon child actors, which happened during Peck’s time at Nickelodeon.

After looking into a bit more, Cucchiara said that many of these controversies were unsubstantiated, and it would not impede the talk, citing that many other universities have had Peck as a significant speaker as of recent with no hiccups.

If either the staff committee or the student-led subcommittee has concerns with a significant speaker, they can call a meeting between them and look into the issues at hand.

The significant speaker event with Peck is on Wednesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. in the Gallogly Events Center. Tickets for UCCS members are $5 and $8 for the public.

Actor Josh Peck. Photo courtesy of Communique.