Purdue Memorial Union Director
Bob Mindrum's two passions are working with university students and delving into the finer points of business management, so his job as director of Purdue Memorial Union is a perfect fit.
Mindrum, who has been the Union's director for the past 17 1/2 years, has found a professional niche that allows him to manage its finances and operations while also providing students with experiential learning and leadership development opportunities. His work extends into the community, where he works with local hoteliers and other community leaders to promote the area as a tourist attraction and improve visitors' experiences.
How did you become Purdue Memorial Union's director?
I got my start in the field as an undergraduate working in the Illini Union at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where I received my bachelor's degree in English literature. After graduation, I was hired full-time in their student programming area and began working my way up in the organization. I was blessed to have a great mentor in former Illini Union Director Susan Yung Maul, who saw potential in me and allowed me to work in almost every area of the Illini Union including student programming, hotel, food service, event management, marketing and budgeting. By the time the Purdue job opened in 1995, she had given me all the opportunities and experience that I needed to land the job.
It's interesting to note that although Purdue Memorial Union has been open since 1924, there have been only five directors here, including me. I think a lot of people who work at unions tend to stay in those positions for a long time because unions are dynamic, vibrant places. At Purdue Memorial Union, for example, we have rich history and traditions, an iconic architecture and a huge array of business, service and program offerings. We're a place where students and others really want to be.
As director, what are your professional responsibilities?
I work closely with all the Union's operations, including retail restaurants, catering, event management, recreational facilities and the Union Club Hotel, which at 192 rooms is the largest hotel in the area. We manage and operate everything in the Union, with the exception of a few spaces that we lease to outside tenants. Even the Starbucks downstairs, for example, we manage under a licensing agreement.
My other primary responsibilities include strategic planning, managing the Union's $16 million annual operating budget, capital planning and working with the Purdue Student Union Board, or PSUB, which is a volunteer student group that has existed since before the Union was built. I attend PSUB's weekly meetings, and I truly enjoy working with their members and getting student input in general. It's a really wonderful opportunity and privilege.
I also really enjoy the business aspect of running the Union. While working at Illinois, I went back to school and earned a master's degree in business administration. I like analyzing financial statements and looking at business operations from a financial standpoint, so to be able to use those skills and still work with students is a unique opportunity, I think.
I've been an active volunteer for many years with the Association of College Unions International (ACUI), serving in a variety of leadership positions including president of that association in 2006-07. ACUI has been a big part of my professional development and has played a key role in the college union movement.
How do the Union's operations fit into the University at large?
We are a department within Housing and Food Services (HFS), so there's a lot of collaboration among our staff and staff from other HFS areas as we carry out our responsibilities. We also work closely with Purdue's Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) program. For example, we have paid internships in the Union Club Hotel and in the catering, culinary and retail dining areas specifically for HTM students. In fact, just this semester our hotel became the for-credit laboratory for the HTM 181 Lodging Management class, which is required of every HTM student. As part of that class, the students receive hands-on experience in front desk management, reservations, housekeeping, laundry and the night audit function. This is just one way that we're a part of Purdue's overall academic enterprise.
In what other ways are you involved in the community?
In relation to my professional responsibilities, I'm involved in helping to promote our larger community's tourism business. For the past 17 years I've served as a member of the Lafayette-West Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau's board of directors, and I've served as chairman of their board for the past six years. That position allows me to work with other local hoteliers and community leaders to promote Lafayette and West Lafayette as a destination of choice and to enhance visitors' experiences.