It is with a heavy heart that I write my last blog post as the 110th Union Board President. While I am very excited to see a talented, new board begin their chapter, I realize that this is the end of a very long one for me. I have been involved with this organization for nearly three years, and I can’t believe where the time has gone and the growth I have experienced. One year ago, at the beginning of my presidency, I was unaware of the tumultuous, yet rewarding experience that I would be embarking upon. One year ago, I was only hopeful that we would take this organization to new heights, and I am proud to say that we did. However, two years ago, as a freshly selected director, I was completely unaware of how this organization would impact my life.
In 2019, we saw many accomplishments. Our Lectures directors, Ethan Schwartz and Olivia Owens, brought in three outstanding large-scale lectures, raising more than $40,000 to invite Anderson Cooper on campus. Our comedy director, Seth Blunt, also invited Tiffany Haddish, making her the first female African-American comedian to speak at IU. Our Canvas Creative Arts director, Alex Ruschman, created one of the best and most inclusive creative arts magazines, featuring selected works from the wide range of identities represented at IU. In continuing to foster an environment of inclusion and diversity here at IU, our Science and Environment directors, Sadia Habib and Lauren Long, reached out to the First Nations Cultural Centerto talk about environmental injustice in minority communities. Alaina Patterson has completely revamped our films selections, making them more interactive and interesting in the age of streaming, a task many others have struggled with. Our new directors Bradley Bolotin and Chiara Bangor-Giorgio, managed to get accustomed as if they were always directors, which likely contributed to their success in organizing some of our most popular events, like Yule Ball and the Lewberger comedy concert. Our Concerts directors, Ike Eguzouwa and Noah Bryles, helped conduct a live-entertainment study with Union Board alumni to figure out how the Union Board can continue to program better and more frequent concerts. Sohile Ali, our Vice President of Marketing, has transformed our marketing considering how our followers on Instagram have tripled in his term. Teja Vontikommu, the Vice President of Finance, spearheaded the proposal for the Committee for Fee Review, and under his leadership we witnessed an increase in our student activities budget for the first time in nearly a decade. Hannah Marshall, our Vice President of Internal Affairs, planned one of the best Biennials ever seen. With her help, we saw over 80 of you all return to Bloomington. Overall, she has transformed the committee member experience and has always provided a warm and welcoming environment that we all know Union Board to have. At the beginning of this semester, I met with each director from each cultural center, and from there we pinpointed the gaps in our programming. Our board enacted a five-year cultural memorandum to build sustainable relationships with the cultural centers for future boards.
Last, but certainly not least, we’ve shifted the board’s mentality to thinking of the bigger picture, and how can we use our programs to better student life at IU and the Bloomington community. The trajectory of this organization has only gone upward. We are leaving the 111th with some big shoes to fill, but from what I have witnessed these past couple of weeks is their ability to fully take on this task.
My favorite part of this experience was seeing how much growth I have seen – not just in myself, not just in the programs, but also in my directors. I remember our first board meeting was like pulling teeth: people were afraid to voice their opinions, yet as our term progressed, I saw each of them progress, with each of them asking substantive questions week after week, to the point where I could not get you all to stop talking. Our Thursday meetings went way past 2 hours. No matter what was said, we remembered our common goal: providing students with the best programs and experiences possible.
I don’t have to tell you all that this organization has provided solace and a home to so many students on campus. It has changed the trajectory of careers because it provides real-world experience that you don’t get in the classroom. As a second-semester senior, this has been a particularly weird transition in my life. As I’ve dedicated my time to my career search, I have been listening to UB alumni’s Beth Davies Loeb’s podcast Career Curves, and in one episode she talked about changing her career to give her that sense of fulfillment and joy that Union Board gave her. Like Beth, this organization has impacted me so much that I have literally changed the trajectory of my career, because I also know what it feels like to lose track of time in the workplace and to work with passionate people, I don’t want to settle for less. I don’t know where I will be this time next year, but I do know that Union Board has provided me with unique and indispensable skills to help me in my career search.
All I can say is thank you. From the bottom of my heart, this past year was one of the most memorable and transformative. Thank you all for the direct and indirect support you have provided this organization. I hope we have made you proud. I am honored to be a part of the John Whittenberger Society and I look forward to seeing you all at the next Biennial.
2019 Union Board President