Alumni News

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Welcome to the State of the Union Newsletter

The official alumni newsletter of the University Unions at The University of Texas at Austin.


January 2014 Edition:


We would like to welcome our new executive director, Mulugeta Ferede to the University Unions family. Mulugeta, or Mulu, joins us from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he served as the associate director of the Illini Union and will be taking over the position from Andy Smith, who retired in 2013 after 27 years of service.

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Mulugeta Ferede

Mulugeta Ferede is an accomplished student affairs professional, having gained...

This past fall, the University community gathered to honor and celebrate the life of a Union legend, Shirley Bird Perry.

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Naming ceremony of the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom in the Texas Union

In the 80-year existence of a student union at The University of Texas, no name looms larger than that of Shirley Bird Perry. From her involvement as an undergraduate student through her service as Director of the Texas Union, no single individual has...

When many people across the campus or community hear staff from the University Unions talk about our alumni, the first question is often "who are Union alumni?". Alumni of a university are most commonly attributed to an academic unit or major. However, here at the University Unions, we feel that we have an alumni base that stems from our connection with the students who were actively involved in our student groups and committees and who learned valuable leadership skills through their participation in those groups.

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A1980 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin (and having earned his MBA from here as well in 2000), William Blake "Billy" Rodriguez is a shining example of how alumni can stay connected to the university they were so connected to as students.

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William Blake "Billy" Rodriguez

As a student, Billy was a member and leader in numerous student organizations such as Friars, Tejas Club, Mortarboard, Omicron Delta Kappa, and of course the Texas...

Today, news travels fast. Not only does it travel faster than ever before, it has found new and innovative platforms to do so. This is most evident in the emergence of several social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

Here at the University Unions, we have a fantastic staff member, Cecilia Lopez, who has coordinated a sharp team of student employees to help us forge our path in this instant and crazy social media world. They have done a fabulous job creating an inclusive social media platform for our organization. Please come check us out!

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This past year, the University Unions Advisory Council undertook a fundraising project to raise $25,000 to create the Wm. Andrew Smith, Jr. Grasp Award to honor Andy Smith, our current executive director, for his 27 years of service to the Unions. This award will feed into the existing Grasp Award, a previous Council project, and supplement the amount that is given to the winning student.

The award is given to students who are active in the University Unions Student Events Center (now Campus Events & Entertainment) and can demonstrate a financial need that could either negatively impact their studies or ability to stay active...

For the last 27 years, the University Unions has forged its way through the University landscape guided by the strong leadership from William Andrew Smith, Jr - or as most of us know him, Andy. With his retirement, Andy will have been the longest serving director of the Texas Union and the first executive director of the University Unions. He has seen our organization through many highs and lows, trying times and celebrations, and has provided the strength needed to ensure the Unions prosper and thrive in order to contribute to the betterment of student life on campus. Please join us in wishing him well.