Looking Forward: Union Leaders Reflect for the Future

As the 2010s decade came to a close, many spent time to reflect upon changes, trends, and developments that changed the world. In the first seven months of 2020, a decade’s worth of events have reshaped modern society and culture. The COVID-19 pandemic, a resurgence in Black Lives Matter, anti-police protests, the growth of virtual learning, and much more.

The Bulletin collaborated with several campus leaders to ask them one question: “What have you learned or done over the past decade that will better prepare you for this new decade?” With answers ranging from learning new technology to adapting to emergencies, these campus leaders provide crucial context for the new decade and beyond.

Dana Bonifacio-Sample, Director of Conference & Event Planning, Linfield University

Learned what I will no longer tolerate. For many years I tolerated many things in the thought of kindness towards others. I have learned that tolerating these behaviors from others in my life created unnecessary anxiety and maneuvering through mental gymnastics to keep others happy while I struggled. One of my favorite quotes is by Madeline Albright: “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” And I will use that voice to stand up for myself and others to fight for social justice and equity in this next decade. As I have learned this lesson, I have been gifted dear friends, colleagues, and experiences that allow me to be my whole self.

Carole Dowell, Executive Director, Associated Students, San Jose State University

“Amongst all the lessons I learned over the past decade, I can highlight critical ones that have prepared me for the decade ahead of us. I developed a greater emotional intelligence which helped me be a better supervisor, director, and a leader. I learned to turn challenges into opportunities for my personal growth, and to better my professional performance. I try to keep a positive outlook on things and develop solutions to move forward instead of being stuck in a bad place.”  

Erin Dayharsh Farrell, Senior Associate Director, University of Massachusetts-Boston Campus Center

“In the last decade, I became a Mom. The role has taught me not to sweat the small stuff, to always have a backup plan, and to remember that a daily dose of fun and laughter is necessary. In many ways, this very personal role has truly made me a better professional and ready to face a new decade…well, maybe not homeschooling in the fall.” 

Joe Lepone, M.Ed., Director, Event Services & Runyan Student Center, Earlham College

“I have learned to better embrace technology. We have become so reliant on face-to-face interactions; however, we need to become masters of technology in our new world. Nothing changes the status quo faster than a pandemic, and it is often the technology that helps us adjust, especially in programming. Events may never be the same post-COVID, as budgets are getting tighter and the need for more accessible events for those who may not be on-campus or even in the same state or country. However, with technology comes engagement, security risks, and again, accessibility. How does one track or assess engagement, how does one provide a secure platform (i.e., Zoombombing), and how does one provide engagement if the student doesn’t have access to the internet or electronic devices at home? These challenging times will push higher education institutions to become more innovative and thoughtful about how we conduct our work and engagement in the new higher education world.”

Edwanna Andrews, Ph.D., Interim Assistant Vice President of Community Support Services, University of Central Florida

“Be flexible in all that you do. While it is certainly important to plan for today and the future, don’t hold on so tight to that plan that you are unwilling to try something new. Each year we have a new cycle of students and sometimes staff who bring other perspectives that add great value to the work we are doing. Don’t be afraid to adjust a plan to include new perspectives.”

Jean Kwaterski, Executive Director for Campus Life, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh 

“I took two courses from FEMA on emergency planning. If 2020 is any indication, we may need that in this decade!”

Kathleen Van Vleet, Student Activities Assistant Director, University of Notre Dame

“In the past decade, I have learned that not only do I need to continue actively learning to remain good at my job, but that it is also important to embrace change as it comes. Being and moving forward can create all kinds of new opportunities and introduce you to things you never knew you were missing. Some of the biggest changes in my life and career have led to some of the happiest developments. Don’t be afraid, embrace it, and move forward.”


  • Steve Chaplin

    Steve Chaplin is managing editor of ACUI’s The Bulletin and manager of the ACUI College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) Evaluation Program. A former newspaper writer, editor, and manager, he has volunteered as a student mentor as a member of the National Association of Science Writers, and received awards for his writing and reporting from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Kentucky Education Association, and the Kentucky Press Association.

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