Tolu Taiwo served as a NASPA intern in the University Center for 6 weeks.
At one of the University Center’s all-staff meetings, Interim Director Herb Ganey led a teambuilding exercise. We were split up into different areas—Program/Marketing, EMCS, Operations, and Business—and we were given one goal: get our items from a big bucket in the middle to our individual hula-hoops. Only one person could go up at an item, and only one item could come out of the basket at a time. Other than that, the sky was the limit.
On the first try, each team tried a lot of different tactics, some sneaky, some illegal. I stole more competing teams’ items than I cared to admit (all for the good of the Program/Marketing team, right?), and we became experts at bartering for our items back. Finally, all four teams got their items in their respective hoops. Herb looked at all of us and told us we did well. But (of course, there’s always a “but” with teambuilding!) there was a faster way to perform the task.
After a while, we all got it: we needed to put all of our hula-hoops around the bucket. Instead of stealing the other teams’ items or working the fastest, we needed to simply work together and allow our hoops to be part of one conjoined circle.
I’ve heard the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” before, but it was interesting to see that put into action. We only worked well and completed a task quickly once everyone was at the finish line. We only succeeded when we all “won.”
As cliché and “Remember the Titans”-y as that sounds, that’s the biggest lesson I will take away from my six weeks here. I got to work with all of the areas listed above, and I noticed how connected they all were. Programs can’t do their thing without building relationships with the Business office. EMCS and Operations need to work together to make an event for an outside vendor perfect. Though each area does different things, no one area is more important than the other. Running a University Center is like a well-organized dance, and everyone needs to be in support of their whole organization, or their area can’t shine.
Knowing about different areas of a student union isn’t new to me. I was on a program board during my undergrad, and I had a vague concept of what each area did. But to me, programs were the most important piece. The student activities side was all that I saw, and that was what mattered. I’m glad I was able to come to UTSA’s UC, because it gave me that “big picture” perspective and helped me understand that programming, operations, finance and budgeting and marketing can all work together. My goal in life is to become a Union Director one day, and I needed to see just how each part fits in with each other, and the overall goal of a University Center.
Thank you so much to the people I got to work with over the past month and a half. Obviously you have taught me so many different things, from using pro-cards to booking rooms to advising college students, but the biggest lesson I’ll take away is the one you all taught me: to succeed, we all need to win.