Congratulations to Lexy Parrill (HESA ‘17) who recently received the Chester A. Berry Scholar Award at the Association of College Unions (ACUI) National Conference. The award is given annually to the author of an outstanding work of writing in the field of college unions and student activities. We caught up with Lexy to find out more about her research:
LP: My involvement in this work stems from an independent project I conducted as an undergraduate at Indiana University. The project focused on memorial unions and, like any great research project, it led me to a series of unanswered questions. Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with the Union Idea and the notion that college unions (and campus centers) are more than just facilities: they are part of an educational philosophy that brings together the community using programming and physical space.
I received this award alongside my mentor and research partner Mara Dahlgren. Mara was my advisor when I was a student at Indiana University. We have a shared appreciation for the college union idea, and we both understand the powerful role history plays in shaping our perceptions, attitudes, and–in this case–buildings. Mara is the Assistant Director of Activities and Events at the Indiana Memorial Union at Indiana University.
I received my bachelor’s degree in History, and I strongly believe that it is important to understand the context and background of an institution–in this case, the college union– in order to produce useful knowledge. When Mara and I began looking into this phenomenon, we realized there was no central database that contained basic information about college union construction, naming practices, memorialization, services, funding, missions, student involvement, etc. We decided to develop this tool, and so far we have collected 750 unique data points (and counting!) from institutions across the world.
This data has allowed us to reframe the college union story and provide data to support (and rebuke) anecdotal stories. We plan to continue to collect information from additional institutions and set up systems to maintain our existing database. We hope this tool provides a jumping point for researchers and practitioners in the field of college unions and student activities.
The HESA community wishes Lexy the best of luck as she continues to examine higher education policies and systems as part of her exciting and important research.
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