A student approaches the help desk at your student union. They are clearly confused and lost, spinning their neck trying to find their unknown destination.
“How can I help you?” asks the information desk staffer.
“Where is the Events Center?” the student says.
“Our Student Union events center is on the second floor, just up the stairs,” the staffer responds.
“Oh, not that. Where is the University Events Center?” the student asks in a second go-around.
See the confusion? Naming departments can be a subtly tricky task, as a student union acts as a bit of a microcosm for its parent university. There’s administration, student involvement, alumni, diversity, a business office, a bookstore, legal services, events, and much more. Events in particular can cross over with your university’s events department, not to mention any other events departments on campus.
So, how does a student union name their events department to avoid confusion with its own university’s events department?
The Bulletin asked the following student union representatives to learn how they differentiated their events departments:
- Joe Lepone, director of events & Runyan Student Center, Earlham College
- Catherine Oakley, events & conference services coordinator, Kent State University
- Nick Olivarria, senior events manager, Highlander Union Building at the University of California–Riverside
- Ashley Snyder, event management manager, Memorial Union at Iowa State University
Earlham College combined two previous departments, the Office of Events and the Office of Student Life, to create the Office of Events and Runyan Student Center. This merger placed the student center operations under Joe Lepone’s office.
“Most campuses have two distinct offices that oversee events: student life and union versus non-student life events, such as commencement, summer programs, and others. However, we are a small college, therefore one office oversees all the event planning and works in collaboration with various departments,” Lepone said.
“By having one office that oversees all events, it made it easier for campus partners to connect with the correct office. Merging the Runyan Student Center underneath my office gave me the ability to streamline event planning and scheduling and provide memorable experiences and excellent guest services with a focus on student development,” he said.
Kent State University took a similar approach in combining similar offices, said Catherine Oakley.
“There were previously two offices: the scheduling office that booked space and the University Conference Bureau that took care of camps, conferences, and external events,” Oakley said. “The two offices were combined into the University Events and Conference Services office We book all non-academic events, take care of external events, and manage the summer camp and conference business.”
Afterward, Kent State created the University Events and Protocol office, which “takes care of upper-level events like commencement, convocation, and ceremonies,” Oakley said. “This does create some confusion. But we have a good working relationship between the two offices and can transfer information from one to the other as needed.”
At the University of California–Riverside, the Highlander Union Building changed the name of its events department “to adjust to building changes,” Nick Olivarria said.
“We renamed our department to HUB Scheduling to be more on par with our individual brand,” Olivarria said. “This distinguishes us from other campus events departments as clients know that if they are booking with HUB Scheduling, it is for the student union, majority inner-campus outdoor locations, and academic classrooms for non-academic events.” Their clients have also been using HUB Virtual Services for hosting events, and the event management system is currently set-up to take requests for virtual events through June 2021.
At Memorial Union at Iowa State University, multiple events offices and departments coexist. Ashley Snyder, who works in the Memorial Union Event Management Office, helps “book all reservations for events held within the MU and central campus,” she said, even though spaces are currently being booked at a 50% occupancy rate.
“We also have an Event Authorization Committee that is overseen by our Student Activities Center,” Snyder said. “The Event Authorization Committee exists to ensure that the proper guidelines are adhered to for the university and to assist student organizations in the planning and preparation of their event.”
Then, the event authorization system grew. “It expanded to include departmental and third-party events,” Snyder said. “This side of the system is overseen by the Office of Risk Management. We also have Conference Planning & Management at ISU; they are a great resource for conferences and special events.”
Thankfully, Iowa State differentiates between the various events arms. “I believe the intent of these names was that groups could reserve space in the MU through the Event Management Office and then get the event authorized through the event authorization committee or system if needed,” Snyder said.
And new branding helps highlight Memorial Union’s offerings. “We’ve recently gone through a rebrand at the MU and have a new speech bubble logo,” Snyder said. “We’re in the process of adding this icon to all of our departments throughout the building, our signage. This really helps people associate Event Management with the MU. Conference Planning & Management’s name is very straight forward and we rarely have confusion between our office and their office.”