Conference focuses on Unions

Last week, three members of the Rensselaer Union Executive Board, Director of the Union Joe Cassidy, Union Operations Coordinator Jean Purtell and myself attended the annual Association of College Unions International Conference in Boston. This was a great opportunity to collect innovative ideas about Union function and collaborate with other student unions all over the country. The conference focused on offering educational sessions and setting up groups that discussed all kinds of subjects relevant to students unions like community building, event planning, scheduling, renovation, motivating staff and students, and multicultural awareness.

Each day, we split up and attended sessions covering marketing and design, training for student employees, technology, student-advisor interactions, recreational activity, green funds, internationalization, and civic engagement. Something important that we noticed was the uniqueness of our student union. Many of the sessions focused on student motivation and improvement of offered student activities. Our students are so passionate and enthusiastic, the programming is created and run by students and our money is managed by the students. It was an eye-opening experience to realize just how much control our students have in comparison to other universities.

There were a variety of great ideas brought back from the conference. There were a lot of examples of refreshed and increased Union branding, and that will be something we will look into. Other ideas included Union sponsored student “start-up” organizations and co-curricular transcripts that students can print out, detailing all of their Union club activities and positions during their time as a student. Another idea is to revamp late night programming and offer more late night options for students. We also looked at possible new furniture for the McNeil Room and healthier dining options in the Union, although these are strictly for brainstorming and early discussion at this time.

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