Things are only impossible until they’re not.
– Jean-Luc Picard
Volume 73 | Issue 2
March 2005

2005 - What's new in college unions and student activities?

What's New Showcase?

Each year ACUI solicits submissions from its members regarding innovative programs and services they have introduced on their campuses. What follows is a sampling of those creative ideas to help you stay up to date on trends in the profession and to give you ideas you might implement on your own campus.

Pomona College


When Pomona College President David Oxtoby was inaugurated in 2003, he announced a new vision for the institution. He wanted to increase involvement with the Los Angeles area and said that there should be a list of 47 things that all Pomona students should before they graduate. (The number 47 is significant in Pomona lore.) A committee was established that solicited ideas and then shared the list with the community.

And so began Pomona’s “List of 47” program. Additionally, a 25-passenger bus was purchased to help transport students to these events and programs beginning this semester. The staff of the Smith Campus Center and Student Programs is responsible for this program. Last semester, prior to the new bus’s arrival, the center sponsored 10 trips to various Southern California spots including the Nixon Library, Santa Anita Race Track, a local comedy club, and the Getty Museum. Students also were able to see the LA Dodgers, Puccini’s Turandot, Les Miserables, and the LA Lakers through the program. Trips will continue this semester and will revisit some of the same venues and will add broom ball and whale watching. To help students keep track of their “List of 47,” the Campus Center distributed a laminated punch-card to Pomona’s 1,500 students. A letter accompanying the card explained the program and encouraged student organizations to plan and organize their own trips.

Submitted by Neil Gerard, Associate Dean of Students/Director, Smith Campus Center, Pomona College

Sacramento State University


The University UnionCAat Sacramento State University (formerly California State University–Sacramento) put in a satellite day spa as a wellness service that also helps students relieve stress. The thought was to get students and staff to feel better overall. The services offered are chair massage, full-body massage, facials, waxing, hair cutting/coloring, manicures, and pedicures. The spa is in 700 square feet, and could (if it had the space) double that size. Just about every service must be booked at least a day in advance because of demand. The other wonderful activity that came from this is thatCAthe spa’s staff will go to clubs and organizations and present about wellness and how to feel better overall. As a part of the contract between the union and the spa owner, a $3,000 marketing fund was set aside to assist the campus with free services, such as free chair massages during finals. Through this partnership, the campus, the union, and the vendor all win!

Submitted by Leslie Davis, Director, University Union, Sacramento State University

Western Carolina University


Through a partnership with the University Center and Residential Living, Western Carolina University enrolled 57 freshman students in its Freshman Leadership Institute this fall. During summer orientation, interested students participated in an application and interview process. As a result, 38 women and 19 men were selected for this living/learning experience. Participants are housed in three 20-bed houses in Western Carolina’s newest residential complex, The Village. Participants in the program meet regularly for programs/classes held in common rooms of their respective houses. The students also are required to complete a passport each semester by attending specified activities and programs.

The FISH! For College program, based on the Seattle Fish Market business concept, provides the basic principles for the Freshman Leadership Institute. The Four Fish! Principles—Be There, Make Their Day, Choose Your Attitude, and Play—are interwoven into the curriculum, activities, and service projects.

The program encourages students to be involved in student organizations and activities. Most have become active in at least one student organization and have participated in activities and events. In addition, the FLI students participated in the homecoming parade and a Habitat for Humanity service project. During the spring semester, students take a for-credit leadership class exploring the Social Change Model of Leadership. The students currently are spearheading a campus effort to collect medical supplies and other items needed for the Tsunami relief.

Current FLI students have an opportunity to continue in a sophomore leadership program. The sophomore leaders will serve as mentors to incoming FLI participants and provide workshops and activities for other freshmen as well.

Submitted by Julie Walters-Steele, Director, A.K. Hinds University Center, Western Carolina University

The Ohio State University


One of the unique programs created as a direct result of a student activity fee increase in 2003 is Explore Columbus, the student discount ticket program at The Ohio State University. A portion of the total fee supplies the budget for Explore Columbus, which seeks discount ticket offers to major sporting, cultural and arts, and entertainment events in Columbus, Ohio. In addition, discounted admission tickets to popular attractions such as museums, the zoo, and the movies are always available.

These tickets are then sold to students for less than their face value; the difference in the cost is subsidized by that activity fee. A ticket that might cost a student $25 or more at the box office sells for between $5 and $15 through Explore Columbus. It is a hit with the students, the entertainment venues are benefiting from increased audiences, and everyone seems to be finding out about this growing program on campus.

Participation from venues in the city has been phenomenal. The most popular events are: Broadway shows; Columbus Symphony concerts; sporting events featuring local soccer, hockey, minor league baseball, and arena football teams; ballet and opera performances; concerts; movie premieres; and opportunities with nearby cities and their professional sports teams (baseball in Cincinnati and baseball and basketball in Cleveland, both about a two-hour drive away).

The program makes use of the university’s ID card and cash register system to complete transactions, as well as building a database of student customers. An average quarter (10 weeks) can see as many as 18,000 tickets sold or distributed. Because all students are entitled to two tickets per ID for most events, more than 9,000 students currently use this program each quarter. A weekly e-mail is sent out to about 5,000 students, with announcements also appearing in campus-wide e-mails.

Future plans for the program include expanding “beyond Columbus” offerings with a new trip series, creating a student-suggested Web page of great places to go in and around town, and seeking fresh new program partners to add to the variety of offerings currently available. The vision for the program is that before too long, Explore Columbus will be a household name for every student at The Ohio State University.

Submitted by Jeff Pelletier, Coordinator, Explore Columbus, The Ohio State University


Formed from a campus-community partnership focused on mentoring and tutoring, the Buckeye Mentoring Hub officially became part of The Ohio Union and Student Activities Office in 2004. Its purpose is to help recruit, train, and support student volunteers in mentoring and tutoring roles in the Columbus community. The Hub is staffed five days a week by full-time staff from community organizations (Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Mentoring Center of Central Ohio)CAand work-study students.

This partnership between community organizations and the university had existed nearly two years when the idea of finding office space on campus was first introduced. One of the challenges for the community groups was connecting with and being accessible to students, as well as coordinating recruitment efforts among all partnering organizations. With thisCAcentral location on campus, the partners have a much easier time reaching out to potential student volunteers, while providing resources to support placement and training because they are where the students are. As a result, additional training sessions are offered, partner programs have increased, and the number of trained and placed student volunteer mentors has increased.

The Ohio Union provides office space and general support in-kind to the partner organizations. The community organizations in turn provide a valuable service to student volunteers and complement the community service programs already available through the union. Fees associated with campus information technology are the responsibility of the community partners, and programming expenses (including room reservations, marketing, and promotion) are shared among the partners. A lease agreement was required by the university, and a “Partner Responsibilities” document was created to clarify each partner’s roles and obligations.

Submitted by Jen Bossard, Coordinator of Community Service and Leadership, The Ohio Union, The Ohio State University

Fort Hays State University


In the spirit of the debate societies from which the first unions emerged, in 2004 the Memorial Union at Fort Hays State University began a program called “Times Talk.” The program offers an opportunity for the campus community to discuss current issues as printed in The New York Times, distributed in the union and on campus daily as part of the program.

Times Talk is a weekly opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to get together informally and explore some of the issues facing America and the world today. During the course of the year, the program discusses politics, technology, scientific advances, culture, and other topics of interest. University faculty, staff, and student presenters use news stories from The New York Times to introduce a topic and lead discussion.

These discussions occur during the lunch hour, and The New York Times, in support of the program, provides free pizza and soda to those who attend. The first Times Talk was on electioneering organizations and their role in the 2004 presidential election campaign. In the weeks since, a professor of Spanish discussed a Latin American perspective on the Iraq War, a graduate student discussed voter registration drives, a German professor reflected on the recently profiled Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, and the news editor of the local newspaper described the similar and different roles of the local newspaper and The New York Times.

A blog has been established for more information about Times Talk. It is available at www.fhsu.edu/adp/nytblog.html.

Submitted by Bill Smriga, Director, Memorial Union, Fort Hays State University

University of Georgia


Volunteer UGA was created in 2004 as a volunteer resource center for the University of Georgia campus. Located in the Tate Student Center, Volunteer UGA is geared mostly toward student volunteers; however, all campus community members are welcome to use the center. The center offers fliers and information regarding volunteer opportunities in Athens, Ga., through Athens-Clarke County government, non-profit agencies, one-time events, and UGA student organizations.

In addition, Volunteer UGA is the administrative home for many community service-focused student organizations. The organizations that have office space in Volunteer UGA and use the staff as advisors include: Adopt-a-Grandparent, Alpha Phi Omega, Alternative Spring Break, Best Buddies, Big Brother Big Sister, Dawg Camp Classic City, Gamma Sigma Sigma, Students Helping Teachers, Tutoring Our Tomorrows, and UGA Relay for Life. Also based at Volunteer UGA, the Service Leaders Council offers representatives from all university community service organizations a chance to interact. This group meets once a semester to share ideas and resources related to fundraising, raising awareness of their issues on campus, and collaborating across organizations.

Currently, Volunteer UGA is partnering with the UGA Career Center to co-sponsor the Non-Profit Career and Volunteer Fair. Ultimately, Volunteer UGA’s goal is to be the hub of all volunteer-related activity and to support the goals of service learning on campus. To learn more, visit www.uga.edu/volunteeruga.

Submitted by Joe Hayes, University Union Graduate Advisor, University of Georgia

Pikes Peak Community College


The Living History Series at Pikes Peak Community College seeks to bring students together with persons who have made history. Guest presenters to the series have included a concentration camp survivor and former army medic who, at age 19, liberated a camp; a Japanese-American who was interned in a relocation camp during World War II; and a Tuskegee airman. Most recently, two Native American World War II veterans spoke on campus as part of a Native American Heritage Series. Tony Reyna, a Taos Pueblo indian, survived the Bataan Death March, and Sam Billison, president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, shared his story only weeks before his death.

These members of the “greatest generation” have been warmly received by students who are stunned by their sacrifice, spirit, and quiet heroism. These intimate, important opportunities for students to meet people who changed history are perfect for community colleges that might not be able to compete with universities for popular arena bands and prominent speakers. Small is beautiful.


Pikes Peak Community College uses the all-American sport of baseball as a vehicle for looking into America’s evolving understanding of women and minorities. In addition, the Baseball Speaker Series compares sports then with what they have become today. The theme includes bringing to campus a bat girl who played on the Rockford Peaches, made famous in the movie “A League of Their Own.” Additionally, an African-American resident of Colorado Springs who was a player on the famous Brown Bombers will come to campus. The last speaker in the series is Dave Pallone, who was a Major League umpire and a gay man.

Submitted by Megan E. Boyle, Coordinator of Student Activities, Pikes Peak Community College

California State University–Northridge


The staff of the Meeting Services Office at the California State University–Northridge union created a users’ handbook for its Online Event Assistant program. Those wanting to reserve space in the facility utilize Event Management System Enterprise Virtual EMS to make requests online. To aid first-time users in navigating through the system, they receive the manual as an attachment with their password confirmation e-mail. The user-friendly manual includes step-by-step instructions and screen shots with relevant items circled. Additionally, the service is set up to allow anyone to see meeting room details and event information online while making their request. Visit the site at http://usu.csun.edu/Virtual3.

Submitted by Cecilia Ortiz, Meeting Services Manager, University Student Union, Inc., California State University–Northridge

Emporia State University


Emporia State University has implemented the Center for Student Involvement Happy Hour every Friday afternoon in the office. Each hour has a specific theme, and related craft or activity and free food is provided to the first 50–75 participants. The event is a way to get students into the office, and it encourages them to meet other students in other organizations. Various themes include “Everybody’s Birthday Party,” “National Cookie Month” (decorate your own cookie), “Turkeyoke” (karaoke and a community service effort to provide food for families in the community), “Winter Wonderland” (students brought in coats, hats, mittens, sweaters, etc. they were not using to give the gift of warmth to those in the community).

Submitted by Blythe Eddy, Assistant Director, Memorial Union, Emporia State University


Oregon State University


The week following the tsunami in Southeast Asia, Oregon State University responded with diverse fundraising events. International students volunteered as supplemental staff for a day at a local Thai restaurant, whose owner agreed to contribute all earnings from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to tsunami relief. This netted $4,800. In addition, Union Board and the International Students Association worked together to set a $100,000 fundraising goal. The kick-off event was a free-will donation to “fill” a 7-foot tall Plexiglas tube with cash. The tube was built by the union shop staff and was stationed outside the Main Lounge during weekdays throughout January. Various groups and work units created mini-fundraisers, the proceeds from which were placed in the tube. Long-range plans are being formulated for a year-long series of fundraising efforts to reach the $100,000 goal.

Submitted by Michael Henthorne, Director, Memorial Union, Oregon State University

Berklee College of Music


Berklee College of Music held a week’s worth of activities related to the tsunami in Southeast Asia. Participants of a remembrance gathering, open to the community, were encouraged to express themselves creatively through music and poetry. Additionally, a firsthand account symposium, held one afternoon, allowed attendees to hear from a relief organization leader who had just returned from the tsunami-affected areas of Indonesia and Sri Lanka. She shared stories of her personal experience in that region with relief teams aiding those affected and explained how efforts will transition from immediate relief to the development work that will help the communities become self-sustainable again.

Appropriately for the music college, two concerts also were included in the week’s events. A benefit concert performance by a student choir helped contribute funds for tsunami relief. And the week closed with “Tsunami Relief: An Evening of Hope,” another concert to benefit survivors, with a faculty and student performance featuring personal stories and images of the destruction caused by the tsunami. All students and faculty were welcome to submit ahead of time a one- to four-song demo of material they would like to perform. There was also an opportunity for those with personal ties to an affected area to share a narrative or photo. A special e-mail address was created for questions related to the week’s events.

Submitted by Jane Stachowiak, Director, Special Projects for Student Affairs, Berklee College of Music

Western Washington University


Associated Students at Western Washington University hired a student coordinator for disaster relief to help in the campus-wide coordination of relief efforts. The student hired approached the Associated Students Board of Directors with several ideas for fundraisers, and the board decided to create a position to help coordinate all the diverse efforts on campus. The position has never existed before and was initiated by this particular student. The Associated Students has provided $3,000 seed money, as well as an office, telephone, computer, copy services, etc. The primary functions of the position are to coordinate campus-wide student efforts,coordinate state-wide efforts with other universities, and produce fundraising and educational programs. For example, the student helped organize a campus memorial program in honor of the East Asia tsunami victims. The position will be reviewed at the end of the Winter Quarter to determine if it should be continued.

Submitted by James H. Schuster, Director of Viking Union Facilities, Western Washington University