Volume 84 | Issue 5
September/October 2016

ACUI's First MHB Intern Shares Her Experience

Maria Reyes and Marsha Herman-BetzenMarsha Herman-Betzen, ACUI’s first woman and longest serving (21 years) executive director, identified the need to focus on students of color who will not only be actively recruited but given priority in hopes of increasing the racial diversity in the profession. To support this effort, she created the MHB internship program, which gives one such student the opportunity to be exposed to the Association and the profession by working alongside the Central Office on programs from June to August.

Maria Reyes, University of Utah, served as the Association’s inaugural MHB intern in 2016. Before she headed back to Salt Lake City, Reyes spoke with The Bulletin on her introduction to, duties throughout, and takeaways from the experience, as well as advice for future MHB interns.

Bulletin: How did you find out about the internship? What encouraged you to apply?

Reyes: I first heard of ACUI during my first semester of graduate school. After attending a regional conference in the fall, I really wanted to become involved with the Association. I was told that volunteer positions come up all the time and to keep checking the website for any updates. In December, I saw the MHB summer internship posting on the website. Because my graduate assistantship was on a nine-month contract, I knew I had to look for an internship during the summer. The Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I) internships were the only summer internships I had heard of for higher education and student affairs (HESA) graduate students, but I thought what better way to get involved with the Association than to spend time where all the “magic” happens. So in early January I submitted my application, interviewed for the position in February, and
here I am today.

Bulletin: Describe your first interactions with the Central Office staff.

Reyes: I first met some of the staff at the annual conference in New Orleans, as I attended to be recognized as the MHB intern. My first day at the Central Office in Bloomington was very welcoming. I received a tour of the office, met the rest of the staff, and had a group welcome lunch where everyone expressed their excitement of having me there for the summer. Over the next couple of weeks I met each staff member individually to ask and answer questions, tell them more about myself, learn their role within the Association, and learn how our jobs might collaborate throughout my experience in the office. My overall interactions with the Central Office staff have been nothing but positive. From guiding my internship experience to lunch outings, it has been a true privilege and joy having spent my summer with people who love what they do.

Bulletin: What was the scope of your position, including specific duties?

Reyes: I am grateful for the flexibility to choose what I wanted to learn during my time at the Central Office. Like most HESA graduate programs, if not all, my program has an internship component to it. Before coming to the Central Office, I emailed my learning objectives and outcomes for the internship to Kim Pho, who was my direct supervisor, to set the foundation for the internship. I particularly focused on two things: 1. The business management of the Association, contracts, fiscal resources, and the diversity and inclusion initiatives; and 2. How programs such as IPDS: New Professionals Program and I-LEAD®, the Institute for Leadership Education and Development. are overall designed to uphold the mission and values of the Association.

My specific duties varied from putting together binders, to working on the logistics of the July Leadership Team Meeting, to creating a section that covers privilege, oppression, and power for the I-LEAD® curriculum. I had several one-on-ones that helped me understand more of the business management of the Association. I am on the Conference Planning Team for my region, so discussing and reviewing an entertainment contract for my regional conference with Jack Voorhees gave me the understanding of contracts and riders, as well with reviewing a hotel contract for an annual conference. Learning about the different funds of the Association gave me the understanding of the Association’s budget. Creating a resource document for diversity and inclusion best practices gave me the opportunity to research the resources the Association currently has. I would say that the overall scope of my position was working on special projects, and my specific duties depended on the project.

Bulletin: How have you grown professionally since your experience at the Central Office?

Reyes: Great question. I believe my biggest professional growth simply came from being immersed into a student affairs association during my graduate studies. I learned the history of ACUI, the changes it has gone through over the years, and the new direction it is headed toward. I learned how this student affairs association makes people feel part of something greater, something that contributes to their work with students on their respective campuses. Student affairs is a small world, and it is even smaller for those who work in student unions or student activity centers. I have had conversations about finding the balance between not getting “too political” yet still being supportive, what leadership and solidarity looks like for the Association, and the overall development and learning that occurs in a student union or student activity center.

Maria Reyes on her tour of the IUPUI Campus CenterHaving the opportunity to visit and tour the Indiana Memorial Union and Indiana University-Purdue University–Indianapolis Campus Center continued the conversation on physical space and operations of a student union. Each student union is unique, yet the mission of providing campus community is the same. Having met current and past members from the Leadership Team who have been in the field for several years added to my professional growth. It was highly encouraging to meet them and hear about their involvement with ACUI over the years, as well as hearing about the work on their respective campus.

Unfortunately, this summer was filled with horrific violence and deaths in our country. I was blessed to meet and become friends with other really great ACUHO-I graduate interns from across the country. One of them was my roommate for the summer, and we engaged in dialogue about how to support and empower students on our campuses when such violent events occur. We processed our thoughts of how to empower students and discussed what “standing in solidarity” means, especially considering our various identities. From our discussions, we agreed that the process of educating ourselves and others about inequalities and oppressed identities never stops. The conversation surrounding social justice should never stop. Silence sends a message, and choosing not to talk about a current issue and how it affects the students and campus says a lot.

Bulletin: What gained and enhanced skills will you take back to your campus and into your career progression?

Reyes: I learned very quickly that ACUI is so much more than just conferences. Learning about ACUI Promos and Procure, how ACUI manages CSHEMA, and all of the programs, seminars, and institutes gave me the understanding of the extensive services the Association provides for its members. Fully understanding these services are the tangible contributions I will be able to take back to my graduate assistantship and into my professional career.

I am looking forward to going back to my graduate assistantship and continuing the conversations I had at the Central Office with my director and supervisor. They have been part of ACUI for quite some time now, and I am really excited to share with them, my graduate assistants counterparts, and everyone in the office the new direction of the Association, what programs we can offer our students, what other unions and student centers are doing in terms of technology and operations, and how we can overall make improvements to better support our students.

As I move forward in preparing myself to begin my career in student affairs, I believe this internship helped me grow more into the field while still being a graduate student. Like most, I decided to enter the field because my undergraduate career was truly an amazing experience. I love the continuous learning and growing atmosphere student affairs provides, yet it can also get political. Talking to CEO John Taylor about finding the balance between politics and being supportive gave me insight on how to go about different issues as a leader. It has also taught me that creating the space to have difficult conversations regarding inequalities is extremely important because of the parallel that exists between education and society.

Regardless of the institution, student affairs professionals are in the field because of the students. I realized that the same concept applies for the Association: ACUI exists because of the members. ACUI, in a sense, serves as the developer of those who develop and provides resources for best practices. After visiting other student unions and being involved with program curriculum, leadership theories, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and business management, I believe I will be able to transfer my overall internship experience into my career progression.

Maria Reyes and her roommate visited the Louisville Slugger MuseumBulletin: What challenges did you encounter during the internship?

Reyes: The first thing I thought of was being car-less for the summer. I recognize that I have been very privileged with having my own vehicle since I was 17, so this summer was also unique because I walked everywhere (Indiana is a bit more humid than Utah), used public transportation, and relied on rides to get around. However, as I reflect, I think the biggest challenge was the fact that I was the first MHB intern.

This being a new program for everyone at the Central Office, I assume each staff member wasn’t quite sure how they could contribute to my learning objectives or what projects I could work on. This was a learning curve for everyone; this internship program will only become stronger as the expectations and curriculum become more established. I am extremely grateful for the Central Office staff and their flexibility to teach me what they do, get me up to speed on where the Association stands, and their overall contributions to my learning.

This internship is part of the diversity initiatives of the Association. Marsha Herman-Betzen recognized the lack of racial diversity within the Association, and my challenge was to realize that both the Association and I gained something. It is interesting to navigate this thought because as a person of color, one does not want to be tokenized. Understanding that the Association is creating opportunities for people of color to become visible within student affairs and because of that I had this amazing opportunity was extremely thought-provoking. I recognized that because of systemic and structural oppression, creating this opportunity is important and necessary for the betterment of society.

Bulletin: What advice do you have for future ACUI interns?

Reyes: What makes the MHB internship program unique is the flexibility to learn what you want to learn. My advice is to simply own the experience and be open to learning as much as you can. If you want to focus on publication and marketing, business management, programs, communities of practice, or any initiative the Association may be undertaking, you indeed can center your internship experience on that.

Ask a lot of questions, be excited to meet people,and enjoy this experience because eight weeks goes by quickly.