Purdue Profiles: Bob Mindrum

August 14, 2012  

Bob Mindrum

Bob Mindurm
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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 years, has found a professional niche that allows him to manage its finances and incorporate student input into its programs. His work extends into the community, where he also helps local hoteliers promote the area as a tourist attraction and improve visitors' experiences.

How did you become Purdue Memorial Union's director?

Prior to coming to Purdue in 1995, I was the interim director of the Illini Union at the University of Illinois. I had worked my way up to that position; I started as a student worker while earning my bachelor's degree, which is in English literature. I was serving as interim director of the Illini Union in 1995, when I learned through the Association of College Unions International, or ACUI -- of which I'm a member and past president -- about the opening here at Purdue.

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'm currently responsible for 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 exceptions of a few spaces that house outside tenants. Even the Starbucks downstairs, for example, we manage.

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 portion 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.

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. 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?

Related 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 their chairman for the past five 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.

Independent of my professional work, I've been involved in the Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette for the past 15 years. I'm a past president of its board of directors as well. This fall, I'll be performing in and directing in a show called "My Way," which is a Frank Sinatra tribute.

Musical theater is just something I have always enjoyed, and many of the students I work with in a professional capacity are aware that I have this interest. Every once in a while, PSUB students will come see me perform in a show. It's great to know that they're so supportive -- it's just another reason why I love my job.

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