A Letter to the UAB Students

Kadie, Brandon, Melissa, Emily, Sean, Kristin, Kennedy, Katie, Madison, Yiting, Loren, Ally C, Ally L, Dakota, Leah, Alyssa, Courtney, all of our great volunteers, Karlee and Margaret;

With an unprecidented end to our wild journey together, a written thank you that can test the digital sands of time seemed the very least to do to document this past year.

First, let’s be honest. This was one hell of a year. From day one of training with the on campus interviews for the MSU Union Director, to Cathy announcing her transitioning out, to Stephanie leaving for maternity leave, to more constricting fiscal rules and policies being implemented, to a higher than normal rate of collaboration and partnership requests from campus partners, to having only one purchasing card in the office, to the hiring process of the new UAB Manager, to onboarding both the new Union Director and new UAB Manager, to Stephanie transitioning to a new position on campus, to the chaos of the COVID-19 and now the social distancing. If something could happen to us this year it happened.

But through it all, you were gracious, energetic, patient and driven to continue the work that we were tasked to do…build community through programming events for your fellow Spartans at Michigan State University. 

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Second, I want to say thank you for putting your trust in me. While I was the only one left, so you didn’t have much choice, you hopped on the Panda Express and openly joined me on the adventure that we will no doubt refer to as the Year of Flexibility! Having been thrust into the unofficial Interim Manager role, I was nervous. With the leadership roles above me vacant, your trust and willingness to be flexible, understanding and patient helped keep us afloat.

Third, I want to say thank you for teaching me and giving me back my confidence. Being thrust into the role was perhaps not ideal, but it was chance to prove to myself that I could be a leader in higher education and that I could hold such an upper administrative role when I had been recently told the opposite. You will never know truly how much it means to me that you allowed me to grow and learn right along side you nor how much YOU TAUGHT ME in being a supervisor, advisor and human.

Now, you know me, I need to say a solid goodbye to everyone. So let me make this a super long post and say a quick something to each of you.

Kadie: From the marketing committee meeting, where we first met, to taking on the Marketing Director Role mid event crisis, to taking on the challenging role of Chair, you have grown into a strong, passionate, caring and intentional woman who is a role model for your team and every community you enter. I’m simultaneously happy and sad to witness you close out your journey here at MSU and graduate. But dang are you going to do amazing things in this world. This was just your overature of Kadie the Musical!, and I can’t wait for your first act in adulting! We would not have thrived this year without your leadership and care.

Brandon: From your volunteering your first year on campus, to planning your events last year to your marketing this year, you’ve grown into an amazing leader. Its been an honor to witness your development and watching you learn how you own who you are as an individual and leader. I can’t wait to witness you take on your next adventure and SLAY it like DeLa. You offered the consistency and support we need this year to keep afloat and accountable.

Melissa: So the tea on you is that you’ve become an amazing and inspirational individual to your friends and colleagues and me. From getting to know you during volunteering last year to getting to KNOW YOU during Leadershape and to being able to advise you through a brand new role in UAB, it’s been an honor to be a small part of your journey. While I will miss your sass next year, I know that you’re gonna bring some life and fabulosity to your next family! Thank you for letting me a part of your journey and thank you for helping to build up the UAB Community in a year of change and uncertainty.

Emily: The growth I have seen in you since getting to know you at Leadershape to today is astounding. You have taken on the mantel of a graceful, calm and intentional leader who has an inate understanding of what it means to lead from the front, the back and alongside your peers. You exude you and seeing someone who is so authentically themselves is amazing and it is what has allowed you to do so much awesomeness with Spartan Showcase and the Concert. Thank you for being so diligent and dedicated to the UAB family and to the work and for laughing with me in our one on ones.

Sean: The man with the best outfits on the planet! I’m so glad you joined us for this year. Your fun, high spirited, authentic and talented self was the perfect addition to the team. Know that your designs did so much more than just market the UAB events this year. The excitement, energy and community building they did amongst the UAB Team kept us afloat and motivated to keep pushing forward through the day to day work. Thank you for being you and being a key motivator for us this year!

Kristin: From last year to this year, I’ve been so fortunate to witness your grow as a designer, artist and human. Taking on the returning role this year, put you into a leadership role that you took on with excitement and I saw other directors look up to you and lean on you and your expertise. Your calm, flexible and patient demeanor help keep us focused and on task in a year of change.

Kennedy: Thank you for being the director that I can have a conversation without saying words. Meeting eyes and mumbling filler words is all we need to get on the same page, all the while facinating others around us. Your energy was a driving force behind keeping UAB and me motivated this year. In only 8 months I’ve seen you grow leaps and bounds as a student, individual and leader. I’ve never witnessed someone grow so much in such a short time in the UAB Director role as you have this year. You’ve become a driving force in UAB with your boundless energy and honest and authentic self.

Katie: Hey girl! Whats up? 🙂 Witnessing you come into the Director role with such excitement and energy fueled the office and gave it momentum to thrive in this wild year. Your organization, calm demeanor and ability to just role with literally anything that came your way helped us stay the course and continue to provide amazing programming for our Spartans. Many times you provided the note of needed clarity to conversations that kept us on track and focused. I’m so glad you were a part of the Team this year!!

Madison: You are the Director that when I am thinking back to your first day with us to saying goodbye on Friday proves the worth of the work UAB does. Witnessing you find community with the directors and volunteers and pushing that outward through your programs and events was inpirational. You may have come in feeling like an outsider but you have become a heartbeat of the Team and the Spartan Community. Your intentionality, love and passion have vibrated throughout your events and your work. Thank you for being you and for being the glue that kept us together this year.

Yiting: What can I say? You have been a pure joy to work with and have in the office. Your energy, intentionality and excitement has provided the motivation to work through all the challenges. Getting to know you and witnessing your growth and development as an individual and leader has been fantastic. Watching you be so open to learning, to challenging the status quo, and to the UAB process has made this year feel so successful. I wish we had more time to continue the great work you were doing and to say a better good bye but I know that whatever your plans are after graduation you are going to thrive and kick ass!

Loren: The mother figure of the UAB Team this year. Leading by example, supporting everyone, taking charge of your work and just being an awesome human. Witnessing you grow this year was awesome. You were a strong leader already coming into your year with us, but to witness you hone those skills and really discover your awareness of how it impacts the communities around you has been amazing to experience with you. Our one on ones were always a highlight of the week for me and I truly treasured watching you champion not only your events but your volunteers and your fellow UAB Team Members.

Ally C: You know the look I’m giving you right now as you read this. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done with UAB! from volutneering to leading the Front Desk with me, it’s been a journey. Watching you grow from a volunteer to Leadershape to Front Desk Supervior, you were the needed responsible one that kept the UAB Office and Front Desk functional and moving forward through all of the change this past year. While we might be losing you to the real world, I know that you are going to be awesome at everything you take on!

Ally L: While we only had a short time working together it was great to have you join the team! Thank you for being a driving volunteer with UAB and for jumping onto the Front Desk Team when we needed to fill out the schedule! Your work and dedication to UAB has been amazing and a driving factor of why we were so successful this year! I  also truly appreciate you put up with my sass and give it right back. 🙂 Thank you for everything!

Dakota: It’s truly been an honor to get to know you and work with you over the past couple of years. Your energy, spirit and dedication was why we thrived especially this past year. You stepped up when needed and you were the consistency that kept us afloat. Watching you navigate your senior year with calmness, intenionality and passion has been a joy that has kept me motivated to keep at the work. I know that this is not the way anyone want to send you off into the adulting world but rest assured that you are ready, you are going to do amaing things and that it’s been a privilege to be a small part of what will be an awesome life journey that will change the world.

Leah: It’s been a blast getting to know you and having you join the Front Desk Team! Your intentionality, calm demeanor and dedicated spirit kept us afloat and moving forward this year. In a wild year it was amazing to know that we had you on the team ensuring that our daily tasks were being completed and that your warm smile was keeping us upbeat and positive!

Alyssa: Our time together may have been short and sweet but having you on the team this year helped keep us on task and that all the small details were getting completed! You were a amazing with the Team and working with the Directors, Volunteers, and the Advisors and supporting the work of UAB in building community for our Spartans. Thank you for everything and you are going to do amazing things out in the world!

Courtney: What can I say, from being a Director last year to joining the Front Desk this year it’s been a joy working with you and having you on the team! Your amazing spirit, energy and support of UAB has been a key reason why we’ve thrived this year. You’re knowledge and expertise helped keep us afloat this year! Thank you for coming back to us and keeping us motivated and moving forward!

Volunteers: THANK YOU for everything! Your energy, spirits and dedication made this wild year a HUGE success! I appreciated the time we spent at our events and meetings getting know each other and doing good work for the Spartan Family through building community. You were all awesome and the driving force behind keeping me motivated and on task.

Karlee: I can’t even begin to say thank you. You’ve been an inspiration of authenticity, human existence and professionalism. Working with you gave me the energy to keep moving through everything we were going through and to keep the work and the students at the focal point of the job. Your intentionality in your approach to everything and the care you put into the humans you interact with inspires me. You came into your assistantship with grace, patience and understanding and hit the ground running, working right along side the team to ensure a successful year. And speaking of success, we would not have gotten through this year without you and I can’t imagine this year without you. You are going to do amazing things for higher ed, students and the world. Every institution that makes the good life choice to hire you will only reap the benefits of your awesomeness. I can’t wait to run across large convention concourses to give you a hug at future conferences and hear all the great things going on with you!

Margaret: The depths of appreciation I have for you and you allowing me to be a small part of your jouney is endless. You have taught me so much about the work and myself. You supported me especially this year when the reigns were handed over to me for that temporary transition time. You were a fantastic partner in redeveloping curriculum, events and programs. And you were a fantastic colleague to chat with during our one on ones from the work to identity development to our students to just life in general. The depth of your ability to challenge and support creates such meaningful environments that produce such amazing experiences for everyone is something I aspire to. Where ever you go in this professional and in the world you are what will provide hope, reassurance, and a good kick in the ass when needed to keep moving forward.

Finally let me share with you the four tentants I hope to have instilled upon you this year:

Thanks for an amazing year of growth! 

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas,

Your Pandager

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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