Our department’s mantra calls for Union Complex staff to “think intentionally, work collaboratively, recognize opportunities, and develop innovative solutions.” Through this perspective our department works to clear and create pathways for students' success and, ultimately, graduation by providing student engagement opportunities in a facility with excellent customer service for our student body, faculty and staff, and our community patrons. The Union and Programs accomplishes our objectives through our two main offices, the Student Activities Office and Event Services.
The Student Activities Office (SAO)
This office oversees over 220 organizations, whose leaders are represented on the newly established Presidents’ Council, which convenes for networking and feedback purposes. The office also manages SMAC (i.e., the campus’ event programming board) and The Southerner yearbook staff—each group with the direct responsibility of creating and documenting community on the Southern Miss campus. The office works to create community by providing a leadership development workshop series, producing a weekly newsletter and blog, and establishing the first group of SAO Ambassadors to provide peer-to-peer campus-involvement and event management assistance. The office has established learning outcomes based on standards established by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). These outcomes are measured using a variety of direct and indirect means including attendance, perceived knowledge gained, number of awards received, etc.
The Event Services Office and Operations Staff
These areas oversee building and space management of the Union Complex (i.e., the Hub, R.C. Cook Student Union, Thad Cochran Center, and the first floor of the Trent Lott National Center). Besides providing event space, these professionals provide employment opportunities for ~50 student employees including three graduate students. We are committed to the development of these individuals. All students have the opportunity to progress through our Staff Training for Excellence Program (STEP), designed to prepare, promote, and reward students. Our department also supports CAS-inspired learning objectives that help develop critical thinking skills by, for example, asking students to relate their relevant coursework with their on-campus employment. Our learning objectives also include developing students’ advantageous workplace behaviors such as time and risk management skills, interpersonal communication skills, and one’s willingness to communicate, all which contribute to our customer service training objectives. We have also developed a 10-part professional development series for our graduate assistants. These learning outcomes are measured using both direct and indirect methods that, when possible, employ empirically validated instruments and methods.
The Union and Programs Department
On the whole, this department supports students' education by providing a safe, aesthetically pleasing, and multi-purpose facility for student events of all kinds. We coordinate and produce numerous student-centered activities for the campus community. We work hard to establish intentional learning outcomes, the measurement of which will help continually improve the services and programs we offer. Quite simply, as the To The Top chant suggests, we strive to be at the top of our game. The top, it must be noted, is a competitive space that requires our staff to continually think intentionally, work collaboratively, recognize opportunities, and develop innovative solutions through valid assessment. Challenge accepted.