Posted July 11, 2013 by DJ Fox 

My ACUI Internship: An Opportunity for Engaged Learning

When I first entertained the idea of becoming an intern at a student union, a series of over-exaggerated thoughts crept into my mind about becoming the stereotypical morning coffee-getter. However, I quickly came to realize that this was far from the case. I am now a little more than halfway complete with my internship at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte and my experience so far has been filled with excitement, discovery, and experiential learning.

I began my internship search in early January through ACUI’s Internship Program. The initial process was somewhat stressful. Not knowing if a phone interview would even be granted made class and work a bit uneasy for me. Eventually the phone interview process came and went, and so did the offer period. I accepted an offer from UNC–Charlotte in late February and have hit the ground running ever since my arrival on campus.

My number one priority going into my internship search process was to get out of my comfort zone. I have already undoubtedly achieved that task. My home institution, the University of Central Missouri, has an enrollment of just more than 12,000 students. UNC–Charlotte’s enrollment exceeds 25,000. My hometown has a population of 16,000 residents. Charlotte’s population is more than 750,000. The student union I work at back home is 50 years old. UNC–Charlotte’s is only four. I was quickly able to apply my knowledge of student development theory toward myself. I remember thinking the first day I got to UNC–Charlotte, “My situation has Schlossberg’s transition theory written all over it.” Luckily for me, my transition was an anticipated one, and the professional staff at UNC–Charlotte’s student union was very welcoming.

I had the opportunity to meet some of UNC–Charlotte’s union staff at the annual ACUI conference in March. Being the curious and eager student union enthusiast I am, I had already done quite a bit of research on my soon-to-be home. My findings definitely excited me. UNC–Charlotte’s union opened in 2009. One of the things the staff encouraged me to do at our initial meeting was to critically analyze all aspects of the union. Upon my arrival, I found that this task was easier said than done. The nearly 200,000-square-foot facility is nothing short of an architectural masterpiece. The convenient location combined with the cozy atmosphere made me realize how lucky I was to have such a great opportunity.

Once I passed through my beginning awestruck “honeymoon” phase, I got right to work. My supervisor distributed my projects list to me. This list included a wide variety of tasks ranging from EBI and Student Voice Consortium survey analysis to planning and implementing a new student employee training program. I began working with the student ambassadors of the union and the professional staff, as well as collaborating with other offices in the student affairs division. They all treated me as a professional staff member, which was refreshing.

My internship has undoubtedly offered me the opportunity to professionally network in numerous ways. My supervisor back home challenged me to come back in August with no business cards left. I’m still working toward that goal but am hopeful I will achieve it. I can honestly say that I’ve learned something new every day at my internship and that it has made me excited to work in a student union as a professional upon the conclusion of my master's degree program. I am excited to take back all of the knowledge I’ve acquired to my university back home. My ACUI internship has been a great experience so far and I look forward to what the rest of my time holds.

DJ Fox

DJ Fox is the Assistant Director of Facilities & Operations at Missouri State University.

D.J. manages the daily operations of the Memorial Union, including custodial procedures, room setups, and facility maintenance. His professional interests include student employment, event technology, and generational supervision. D.J. currently serves student involvement coordinator on the Region II Conference Planning Team.


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