Na-Na-Na-Na, Hey-Hey-Hey, Goodbye

Wow!  I cannot believe the day has come to say goodbye to my WIU alumni readers.  Earlier this morning, I took my very last final exam ever, and now I am writing my very last blog for all of you.  This semester has been great; I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my undergraduate career.  But, before I say my final goodbye, I have a few more items I would like to share with you.

First, I would like to thank everyone who made this internship possible.  This has been such a great experience; this internship with Alumni Programs  has helped me get a taste of the real world. It has cemented my desire for my future.  I love writing! Even though I’ve been writing constantly during the past five days due to final papers and finals, I still love it!  I love being able to put myself into a story while interacting with others and writing these blogs allowed me to do that.  I was able to explore so much about WIU while working to improve myself.

Next, I need to give a big shout-out to my supervisor, Amanda Shoemaker.  She handles so many different tasks during the week and yet still managed to answer all of my questions (trust me there were quite a few!). She was great at responding to every single one of my emails, all while performing her everyday tasks.  She was the one who edited all of my blogs prior to posting and helped me improve my writing.  I will admit, I am not the best editor (yet), but after meeting with her on a weekly basis throughout the semester, I am leaving Western with improved writing and editing skills because of her.

I would also like to thank all of the administrators, staff, faculty and students who helped with my blogs.  In order to write about a subject, you need to have an expert’s input, and, you won’t hear me say this often, but it is true… I don’t know everything.  It was great to get to meet and interview many different people on campus who helped me better understand certain topics in order to share it with all of you.  Everyone who helped in my research of the various topics welcomed me right away.  With that in mind, I believe I improved my interviewing skills throughout the semester.  I mean it when I say I took a lot from this internship, and am extremely grateful for it!

What made this semester and experience even more remarkable was the amazing Alumni Programs staff.  From the first day I stepped through the Alumni House door, I was greeted with smiling faces and warm hearts.  I instantly felt welcomed and it was such a great environment to be in throughout my internship.  I am so thankful I got to meet and work alongside these great women.  I will definitely miss  my talks with Bev about the weather, and Kim’s smiling face as she would stroll past my work station.  All of these ladies are wonderful and I will miss each and every one of them.

Now, to all my WIU alumni readers, thank you for your support by following my posts.  We wouldn’t have such a great Alumni Association if it weren’t for all of you wonderful people.  And for the umpteenth time, I cannot wait to join all of you in becoming an alumnus and sharing my purple pride well after graduation.  I have met and spoken with many of you, and from that, I took away something so powerful; there is so much pride in this great university.  So many of you, along with faculty and staff, all have one thing in common…you’re all crazy in love with Western.  Each week throughout the semester, the WIU pride within me grew stronger, and I know for a fact it will continue to grow.  As I mentally and physically prepare for commencement on Saturday, I also have been preparing for my future.  I am looking to get a job with a newspaper or magazine, so if any of you have any contacts… don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at al_fogarty@yahoo.com! I would love the opportunity to network with alumni, particularly those in the journalism field.

Again, this has been such a great experience and I am so honored to have been given the opportunity to write for all of you.  I truly am going to miss attending this University, but all good things must come to an end.  I can’t wait to meet, visit and network with you at future WIU Alumni & Friends Events.  Thank you everyone who has helped me along this journey.  I am proud of my purple blood, and will always be a Leatherneck.  Farewell WIU!Picture0007

In the Home Stretch

It’s that time of year again…the time when the days grow longer, the grass gets greener, and WIU students take their final exams.  In my case, I’m not only preparing for finals but for my future as well.  With finals week in full force, I am quickly realizing that I have to say goodbye to Western.  I have gotten nostalgic in my last few weeks as a WIU student and I wondered if others were feeling the same. On the flip side, I wondered if freshmen feel overwhelmed as they finish their first year at WIU. I hit the pavement to find out how WIU students prepare for this dreaded week we know as finals.

Senior Abbie McKinney, a hotel/restaurant management major, is in the same boat as me.  “Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve been very excited to graduate, but now that graduation is slowly creeping up, I don’t want to leave WIU,” she said.  However, she is determined to finish her undergrad career strong.  McKinney started her final exam studying last Friday, because if she starts any earlier, she said she loses interest in studying.  “I make note cards for some classes, and other classes I re-write my notes several times,” she explained.

While some seniors are barely hanging on by a thread, it seems as if freshman Anthony Kosatschewsky, an engineering major, was fully prepared to take on what this week had in store.  He explained he has been studying for finals for two weeks now.  It’s great to see a younger WIU student with such great time management skills!  When I asked Kosatschewsky about his studying habits, he again seemed very positive.  “I think they have improved a lot! After going to class every day, I have been doing better on my tests and quizzes for all of my classes,” he said.  He doesn’t seem to be feeling too overwhelmed at all.

Senior Gabriel McDonagh, a broadcasting major, definitely feels the pressure of the future on him like I do.  “The toughest part is juggling my course work with my job searching,” he explained.  Throughout much of last week, or “dead week” as many WIU students call it, McDonagh mentally and physically prepared for his finals; he attended all of his classes and took good notes.  He admitted his study habits have worsened since his freshman year at WIU, but that won’t stop him from finishing the year strong.  Like me, McDonagh is ready to graduate.  He says all that he needs to do is study the day before his finals for an hour and he is good to go.  I’m sure many students wish it were that easy for them as well!

Like McDonagh, McKinney and Kosatschewsky were also mentally and physically ready for this week and that’s good since it is finally here.  “I think my studying habits have been maintained over the past four years. In high school, I didn’t study much and that kind of carried over into college. But, I realized that once I got to WIU, I had to study in order to do well,” McKinney explained.  She is eager to finish studying and get through this week so she can prepare for graduation.

While many WIU students are ready to finish their finals and move on to their next year at Western, many of us are getting ready to say our final goodbye to our beloved WIU.  Sure, it has been one long, rough winter, but hey, we all made it through.  It has been a great semester and as it comes to an end, I am proud of everything I have accomplished.  Now, all that there is left to do is take my final two exams, pack up my apartment and cross that stage at commencement.

Got Purple?

As my days as a WIU student come to a close, I wanted to spend Finals Week, taking in everything Western.  That thought turned into a trip to WIU’s Bookstore!  As I browsed through the clothing section…I can spend hours deciding between which Rocky shirt I want to rock…I grew curious as to how the store has so many options when it comes to WIU apparel.  The Bookstore’s clothing buyer, Dick Robeson, will retire at the end of the month, so Kim McKee answered my questions since she will soon take his position as clothing supervisor.

McKee explained it is the clothing supervisor’s job to select the merchandise to be sold in the Bookstore.  If you haven’t visited the Bookstore in a while, there are WIU t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, sweatpants and so many more clothing items to choose from in a variety of styles and sizes.  Robeson told McKee, “You have to keep in mind the students who are 17 or 18, who are here for registration…to the moms and dads for Family Weekend…and everyone else for Homecoming!” There is definitely a lot to think about and to consider when selecting the merchandise!

While in the Bookstore, I wanted to make sure I stocked up on my WIU apparel, and luckily the Bookstore had great prices!  McKee explained t-shirts are the most popular clothing items sold, and it must be because of the great price point; they are only $16.95.  The Bookstore has such a great selection of shirts to choose from; there is something for everyone, especially if you are looking for a gift to give a fellow Leatherneck.  “It is an easy present for everyone concerned,” McKee said.

With so many good deals in the Bookstore, I began wondering how they set their prices.  McKee said that’s the tough part.  She explained she is doing her best to keep the t-shirts at $16.95, but there is so much to consider.  “We have 20 percent discounts for promotions and the costs of items keep rising,” she explained.  The prices will always vary depending on the clothing item and the brand, but she and WIU are doing their best to keep prices low for shoppers.

Although McKee organizes the selection of merchandise, she does have to get approval from the University as well.  “We have a licensing person on campus who works in Sherman (Hall) that has to uphold a variety of rules and regulations,” she explained.  When an artist from a company sends McKee artwork to approve, they also have to send it to the licensing administrator.  It is a group decision, McKee noted.  “I may love it, but if it doesn’t fit certain standards, we go back to the drawing board and make compromises,” she said.

When I first approached McKee, I had no clue what all went into the process of selecting WIU apparel to sell.  I love walking into the Bookstore and having a variety of options to choose from; and I really enjoy leaving with something new representing WIU.  So next time you are on campus, be sure to stop by the WIU Bookstore. If you are too far from Macomb but still want to show your Western pride, you can always order online at http://bookstore.wiu.edu/Apparel_c_1.html.  You can never have enough purple and gold clothing! Once a Leatherneck, always a Leatherneck!

Once a Student, Forever an Alum

Next Saturday, I will walk across the stage and become a WIU alumnus.  That day, my college career will officially be over and I will become part of the “real world”.  I was nervous to accept this; however Director of Alumni Programs Amy Spelman calmed my nerves as she explained what it really means to be a WIU alumnus.

In case you’ve forgotten, Western alumni receive great benefits after graduation!  Spelman explained a lot of alumni associations at other universities charge alumni to become a member of their association.  Luckily, WIU doesn’t do that; once you graduate from Western, you automatically become a member of the WIU Alumni Association and there are no dues or fees.  “We’re committed to no fees,” Spelman said.  With all the benefits available, she explained to me that one of the best benefits of being a WIU alumnus is the opportunity to connect with the other 124,000 alumni.  “The best way you can describe what the benefits are is that you become a permanent trustee of this University,” Spelman told me.  If you’d like to refresh your memory on all the benefits, you can view all the details at   http://wiu.edu/alumni/benefits.php.

“Over the years, we’ve really worked hard to try and come up with ways to get the information out to alumni,” Spelman said.  The growing use of technology and electronic media plays a vital role in this communication.  Alumni Programs uses social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many more to spread the word about upcoming events and other benefits. Aside from social media, Spelman said email has been a huge communication tool.  Once a student graduates, the Office of the Registrar moves each student data file to the alumni database. Once the new alumni are on the database, they will start receiving information from the Alumni Association.  “We’ve noticed a bigger turn out at Alumni Events from people we have an email address for,” Spelman told me.  If you haven’t updated your contact information with WIU’s Alumni Programs, you can send an email to A-Association@wiu.edu or give them a call at 309-298-1914. In the last ten months, Kim Stuaan, an Assistant Director of Alumni Programs, sent 1.9 million emails to WIU alumni and friends… are you getting these emails?

As I mentioned above, WIU hosts Alumni and Friends Events all over the country.  Alumni Programs works to plan a variety of events from sporting events to cultural events to reunions and everything in between.  Spelman explained most events have a registration fee, which covers just the cost to attend the event; they never charge more.  They also plan complimentary events.  For a look at when WIU will be in your area, check out their Events Calendar at http://wiu.edu/alumni/events.php.   And remember, Alumni and Friends Events aren’t fundraisers.  The best part about these events is, “putting alumni back in touch with each other,” Spelman said.

As a student on the verge of becoming an alumnus, Spelman talked to me about that transition.  “The day you graduate, you get an email from us welcoming you to the Alumni Association,” she said.  It’s as easy as that, and I cannot wait to receive that email welcoming me to the alumni family.  However, commencement weekend isn’t only about the graduating students.  Spelman told me that at each graduation (in December and in May), the Alumni Association presents alumni awards.  “It’s a really big weekend for us,” she said.

One of the greatest things I learned from my talk with Spelman was the amount of help that is offered to WIU alumni and by WIU alumni.  “We can help each other,” she explained.   “Alumni can help us keep their Alma Mater alive and strong,” she further stated.  Spelman explained it isn’t about money…”it’s great if they give back financially, but for me, volunteering, speaking at classes, sending students our way, is just as important,” she said.  And, WIU can help reconnect alumni which ultimately will help you network.

Alumni Programs loves to keep all alumni in touch with whatever interests them back on campus. Remember, you aren’t just an alumnus of WIU, you are also an alumnus of your academic area and student organization(s).  Speaking with Spelman made the thought of graduating much more comforting because I now know there will always be that strong connection back to this fine University. “If we can help alumni in any way, shape, or form, because they’re a graduate of this University and a permanent trustee, we’re going to help them,” Spelman said.  My purple pride has definitely grown over the past few months while working in WIU Alumni Programs and I am glad I get to share it with all of you.

Rick Springfield will Rock our Life!

Although I was born in the early ‘90s, I still know who Rick Springfield is and I’m sure many of you do too.  If you love to stomp your feet and sing along to “Jessie’s Girl,” then you’re in luck!  This fall’s Family Day (September 13, 2014), Rick Springfield will take the stage and rock Q-Lot!  Throughout the years, WIU has had a number of celebrities perform on campus from bands like REO Speedwagon and .38 Special to comedians like The Hangover’s Zach Galifinakis and Bob Hope.  So how does WIU manage to book these well-known celebrities?  Student Activities Assistant Director for Programming Diane Cumbie helped answer many of my questions.

For the third year in a row, families will come from near and far to attend a large Family Day concert at Western.  Cumbie explained this is the only celebrity event that the University Union Board (UUB) brings to Family Day and it’s always a popular one.  UUB President Ronnie Robertson, a senior English literature major, explained it’s the UUB’s job to provide entertainment to the campus community.

So how does Western get these big names to campus?  Robertson explained the University wanted to bring an artist who parents would know to campus on Family Day.  “We have a list of middle agents who have a list of clients,” Robertson said.  That’s where Cumbie stepped in to help.  “We find out from agencies which older acts, ones that parents would know, are available and touring.  We then find out which groups play well live,” Cumbie explained.  They also have to research the technical needs of each performer and determine what specifics WIU would have to supply in regards to technology and personnel.  “Those costs can prevent us from working with some groups because those demands can be too costly,” Cumbie said. It just so happens Rick Springfield is our man this fall and luckily, he still performs a great rock show!

If you think the process of booking a celebrity on campus is long, you are right!  Robertson said after Family Day 2013, the UUB was already planning for 2014.  Even though Cumbie contacted the agencies, and the performer and date were finalized, the work still wasn’t over and it still isn’t over.  “Most of the work with contracts and coordination happens over the summer months,” she said.  So while students get a nice summer break, Cumbie works to finalize plans over the summer.

If you’ve never attended, Family Day is definitely geared towards parents and families because as Cumbie said, “they are our guests for the day and so the focus should be on our guests…that is what a proper host should do!” With that said, anyone and everyone is invited to the big show.  Robertson explained that the UUB tries to do as much as possible to reach out to alumni, making sure they know that they are invited to the concert.  “Just because you leave WIU doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not programming for you,” Robertson said.  Family Day is as much for alumni as it is for current students and their families.

So set the date on your calendar now, Family Day is on Saturday, September 13.  The Rick Springfield concert is sure to be fun and memorable event…and it’s free!  The rest of the schedule for Family Day 2014 is still being determined, so Cumbie encourages everyone to check out the website in July for the final rundown; you will be able to view it at http://www.wiu.edu/student_services/university_union_board/family_day/.

Good Eatin’ at WIU

As a former Western student, you know that WIU has a few different dining locations on campus.  However, not everyone attending classes on campus knows of all the different places to satisfy their hunger.  Senior Jill Larkins, an English literature major, is a commuter student and she hasn’t fully explored the campus between trips to class.  “I just genuinely don’t know all the places I can eat on campus,” Larkins said.  So I took it upon myself to enlighten her (and now you) on all the dining locations on campus.

First, each residence hall has something to offer when it comes to on-campus dining.  Lincoln/Washington/Grote and Tanner each have a convenience store.  Corbin/Olson, Bayliss/Henninger and Thompson have cafeterias that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The Union also has its own convenience store as well as Burger King, Sbarro and Einstein Bros Bagels.  A little farther down Western Avenue is Dividends, a little coffee shop and cyber café that is located in Stipes Hall; there is also a little coffee cart in the basement of the Malpass Library.  Lastly, the Knoblauch Café, run by students in the dietetics, fashion merchandising and hospitality department, serves lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays (but only through April).  Until I researched this topic for my blog, I never realized how many options students (and staff) have when it comes to dining on campus, and I’ve been here for four years.

Senior Andrew Gerske, a music major, said he frequently eats on campus.  He usually chooses the Corbin/Olson cafeteria because it is closest to his academic buildings.  He does however venture out to the other cafeterias from time to time.  “I really enjoy the café in Thompson as there are lots of selections and a variety of options,” Gerske said.

This semester has been very busy for me with back–to-back classes; then I run over to the Alumni House to write my blogs. That is followed by work in the Bayliss/Henninger kitchen; as you can see, I don’t have much time to eat on campus.  Unfortunately, my favorite campus dining spot is no longer open.  I used to love going to this little restaurant called the Bistro which was open in the Lamoine Room.   However, with the current construction at the Union, the restaurant is not open.  I have my fingers crossed that it will open again, and if they do, I highly recommend their soups!

And more changes are on the horizon when it comes to campus dining.  Next year, the Bayliss/Henninger cafeteria will only be open from 5-7 p.m. for dinner.  Sodexo (WIU’s Food Services) Resident District Manager Ada Neighbors explained why this change was made at Western.  The number of students living in the residence halls has decreased over the past 10 years; this prompted University Housing & Dining Services (UHDS) to make some changes to reduce expenses. One solution was to cut the hours of operation in the Bayliss/Henninger kitchen.  “In order for UHDS to be fiscally responsible with student dollars, further reductions needed to be made to ‘right size’ our operations,” Neighbors said.  Students shouldn’t worry though; the same food options and stations will be there next year during the dinner hours.

All of the above dining centers are open to all students, both those who live on-campus as well as commuters. Heck, I’ve even noticed faculty and staff members eating at all of these locations. WIU’s food is great and the dining options are many. So if you ever find yourself back in Macomb and looking for a place to dine, don’t forget about the many options on the WIU campus.

WIU Leads the Pack on the Track

As the temperatures begins to rise in Macomb, no one is more excited about the spring temperatures than WIU athletics, including WIU’s Track and Field team. Even throughout the bitterly cold and snowy winter weather, the team made sure they practiced (inside) so nothing would slow them down (literally) when the season officially started.  I was able to get a few quick words in with head coach David Beauchem about the 2014 team and season.

With the unpredictable weather being less than cooperative, the team has had to practice inside more than usual.  Coach Beauchem said the weather has interfered with the team’s training days, so the coaches had to lighten the work load so no one would get hurt.  “This is not what we had hoped for, but there was no other choice,” Beauchem said.  He stressed that having good weather is more important now than it was earlier in the season.  “The meets in May are when we need the best competition days,” he said.

As the weather got nicer and nicer over the past two weekends, Coach Beauchem said there was a significant improvement among athletes during the last two meets.  And now, they are working to prepare for the Summit League Outdoor Meet.  He explained that their goal is to be a top 3 team at the Summit League Meet.  “From there we want to have individuals qualified for the Regional Track and Field (TF) meet and having a shot to advance to the NCAA National Championships,” Coach Beauchem said.  In order to accomplish any of that, he explained the team has to score points in the Summit League from more than just the All-League performers.  “We have to score points from 15-plus competitors on each team,” he said.

Beauchem has been the head coach at WIU for four years now, coaching both the men’s and women’s team. “It is great having both teams; I think it works very well together,” he said. When asked what he finds most rewarding about his coaching position, he said the answer to that question could be found at the Lee Calhoun Memorial Weekend.  “Every one has been different, but it is the highlight of our program every year,” he explained.  This year marked the 25th Lee Calhoun Memorial Track and Field Meet.  The meet/weekend attracted a nice turnout and brought back a great group of WIU track and field alumni, which Beauchem really enjoyed.  “It was great to have them back on campus for the weekend,” he said.

This season, the strength of the team comes from top level individuals, Beauchem explained.  “We are a little thin on depth, but our freshmen are coming along,” he said.  The team definitely has some very strong performers including some Summit League Champions who have helped lead WIU’s program for some time, Beauchem further stated.  He has been really proud of the student-athletes who have succeeded at the Summit League Meet in the past, and he hopes more can do the same this season.  “We have put a lot of emphasis on performing on the championship day and to see it all come together has been great,” Beauchem said.

This weekend the team will be competing in Arkansas.  Next Friday they will head to Cedar Falls, Iowa and then onto Normal, Illinois on Saturday.  If you have the opportunity, go cheer on the WIU Leathernecks!  Coach Beauchem appreciates all the support of the fans, and I’m sure the team does too.  Let’s support our men and women’s Track and Field team as the Summit League Meet quickly approaches. We all hope the Track and Field team makes it to the top 3. Go Necks!