Posted January 4, 2012 by Erin Morrell 

The Union is Always a Part of Our Lives

I have just returned to the office from both a relaxing and busy holiday vacation. The office is fairly quiet since most of our students don’t come back for a couple of weeks. I found my mind wandering today and thinking about my vacation and how enjoyable it was. I cleared my head of all the things waiting for me as I returned to work, but I also thought about and related to the college union while away.

My family decided to take a road trip to Florida for the holidays (it was a very last minute idea, and we left on Christmas Day). I was definitely looking forward to being in a warmer climate. We drove for two days, and on the way down, I seemed to notice more signs for colleges and universities than before. Some names were recognizable, but many were institutions of which I had never heard. I thought to myself: "What type of school is that, and do they have a college union?"

When I wasn’t in the driver’s seat, I used my smartphone to look up some of these schools just out of curiosity. Sometimes we live in a bubble and only think about the schools that most resemble our own, or those that are close to us in proximity, or even the ones that our friends and colleagues work at—but seldom do we think about the numerous others out there that have great facilities, programs, staff, and students.

When I was growing up, my parents took us on road trips all the time. Most trips involved some type of museum, amusement park, or attraction that interested my brother and me, but almost all our trips included an unscheduled stop at a union where my dad had a friend that worked. As a kid, I can remember wondering, "Why on earth do we need to stop here, what’s the big deal about this building?" and "I don’t even know this person, so why are we stopping?" The stop always included a tour of the union, possibly lunch or a snack, and plenty of time for my dad to catch up with his friend.

One highlight of our most recent trip (other than visiting area theme parks) was having dinner with my dad’s friend and his wife who are retired and now live in Florida most of the year. He was the person that gave my dad his first job in student affairs back in the late 1970s. Just listening to the stories they shared, as well as the laughs, made me appreciate their more than 30-year friendship, and it makes me hopeful that someday I will have a story like that with some of my ACUI friends.

Fast forward more than 20 years, and I’m following my dad’s footsteps, not only working in student affairs, but also working in a union. I had no way of knowing this all those years ago, but it actually helped to shape the professional that I am today. My dad still keeps in touch with those friends we met on our family trips, and I too can imagine doing the same thing when I have my own family someday.  

Erin Morrell

Erin Morrell is the Associate Dean for Campus Activities & Orientation at Albertus Magnus College.

Erin has responsibilities in advising student organizations, including the programming board and student government, and supervising department student employees. She oversees the Albertus@Night late night programming series, and serves as the Director of New Student Orientation.


Erin I'm sure you'll have similar stories and laughs to share years from now. Like that one time during the ACUI Summer meeting that we were all in a local gathering place, and a...customer...cleared out her digestive system, all over the floor. Ah, memories.
Jeff Pelletier
Comment posted 01/04/2012 4:29 PM
If ever a memory was the LAST thing I needed to read first thing in the morning... :-)
Joe Gutowski
Comment posted 01/05/2012 8:42 AM
Erin, My kids and you should get together to talk about all the vacation visits to colleges and their unions. They anticipate and expect it and we've had fascinating conversations about the assets of the various buildings that we've toured formally or informally. Our vacation planning always includes a consideration of the schools, unions and professional colleagues along, near or at our destination.
Comment posted 01/05/2012 10:01 AM
Erin, You are both following in your dad's footsteps (as many of us are who have learned so much from Chuck) and paving your own way. One day others will be telling stories about you (mostly inspiring ones and a few "funny" ones I'm sure).
Justin Camputaro
Comment posted 01/05/2012 1:55 PM
Erin, I'm sure you've made your dad's day! I have enjoyed taking my children to ACUI regional and professional conferences throughout my 20 years in student affairs and have some pretty amazing pictures of them growing up with many of my greatest friends (your dad included). ACUI is a special place and the friends made through the student union are life-long! So happy you're following in your dad's footsteps! Much love, Jeanni
Jeanni Winston-Muir
Comment posted 01/05/2012 3:34 PM
Jeff and Joe - Such memories from the summer - hope to have many more with both of you soon! Bob - sounds like it's a family tradition! Thanks for reading! Justin - Thanks for your words of encouragement! I hope that I am following in his footsteps proudly! Jeanni - Thanks for your comments. My Dad was glad to see so many positive responses to this story!
Comment posted 01/09/2012 10:01 AM
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