Region I Letter from the Director

Hello Region I,

Please allow me to reintroduce myself… My name is Samantha Liu and I have the honor to serve as your new ACUI Region I Regional Director. Many thanks to my predecessor and friend Tonee Sherrill for his leadership of our region over the last two years. I have learned so much from him and hope to continue leading our region with the same energy, love and care.

It has been my honor to serve previously as the Educational Programs Coordinator since 2020 and I have been involved in ACUI since 2008 as a student. My love for ACUI and Region I has grown stronger over the years and I am thankful to call ACUI my professional home of choice. We have a great group of individuals serving on your Regional Leadership Team and we plan to reconnect and re-engage with you to determine how we can best serve you and the region.

As we look toward the future, one thing remains clear — we need you. We need you to continue the amazing work on your campuses, we need you to continue supporting students and showcasing the role of the college union, we need you to mentor new professionals in our field, and we need you to be engaged in our resources, programs, conferences and available because our region thrives because of you. Looking forward to this new journey with you.

Samantha Liu
Regional Director, Region I
Associate Director, Operations & Services
University Student Union at California State University–Northridge
Samantha Liu
2018 Award and Scholarship Recipients
Matt Cameron Outstanding Student Award – Tori Lawler, California State University–Northridge

Tori LawlerHow long have you been involved with ACUI Region I?

My involvement as a volunteer started in January 2018 as a member of the Conference Planning Team. On this team, I volunteered as the fundraiser coordinator. However, I attended my first conference in the fall of 2017 in Arizona. That conference is what really sparked my interest in ACUI. I also received the ACUI Region I Meg Sutton Scholarship to attend the Institute for Leadership Education and Development (I-LEAD®) in July 2018.

Briefly share your experience about your attendance at the Region I Conference in San Diego.

The Region I Conference in San Diego was the third ACUI conference I had attended as a employee of California State University–Northridge, and I was really looking forward to it. I had a different perspective for this conference than the others I have attended with the fact that I was a member of the Conference Planning Team. I got to see how conferences work behind the scenes and I have a real appreciation for all the hard work and long hours that are put in by the volunteers who made it happen. I had an amazing time. I had the opportunity to present to not only my peers but to professional staff members from other student unions. 

What was your initial thought/reaction when you were recognized and awarded by the region?

Being recognized and awarded by the region was a huge surprise. I am surrounded by supportive staff members and encouraging peers. I have always felt that I am just doing my job and supporting my team. But when the accomplishments of the award winner were being announced through the speech, it sounded so similar to the same things I had done at my union. When my name was called I was shocked and nervous. But I felt so much joy in the fact that my work and dedication to my team was appreciated. It was truly a humbling experience and I am so honored to have been nominated and selected. 

Do you have any general comments?

I felt that this conference had a lot to offer students in terms of education sessions which is so great. A lot of the students who came with me were new to ACUI and I was so excited that they had a lot of options to choose from. It made the conference that much more amazing.

Debra L. Hammond Outstanding New Professional Staff Award – Brittany Lump, Arizona State University

Brittany LumpHow long have you been involved with ACUI Region I?

I have been involved in ACUI Region I since starting in my role as operations coordinator for the Arizona State University Memorial Union in the summer of 2017. The entire staff at the Memorial Union is actively involved with ACUI and being a member was very important to me as well as actively encouraged by upper management. There is tremendous value in understanding what peers are doing at other institutions. I have now attended the Region I Conference two years in a row.  

Briefly share your experience about your attendance at the Region I Conference in San Diego.

My experience in San Diego was amazing. The union was very unique and unbelievably beautiful. I loved seeing all of the sustainable features put into place as ASU really values sustainability. Two students, a colleague, and I presented on sustainability and we all found San Diego State University to be quite impressive as far as how well they have educated their students (we peeked in some trash and compost bins). In addition, I found the conference to be quite well organized. It was nice to be between the hotel and university to break up the day, and I loved being able to take public transportation to and from. My team had a great time bonding at the bowling tournament and we really enjoyed the social gatherings that allowed time to mingle with peers.

What was your initial thought/reaction when you were recognized and awarded by the region?

My initial thought to being recognized was shock. I definitely did not expect it at all. It was wonderful to be recognized for my work at ASU. At times, working with a revolving staff and clients day in and day out can be a somewhat thankless job. It was nice to feel appreciated for how much I care about my team and the community we serve every day.

Do you have any general comments?

I think ACUI is a really great group to belong to and I am thankful for the opportunity to attend these conferences as they are valuable learning experiences.

Don & Noel Hinde Distinguished Service Award – Joanna Iwata, California State University–Monterey Bay

Joanna IwataHow long have you been involved with ACUI Region I?

By virtue of my current position at California State University–Monterey Bay, I have been more active in Region I since 2013 as a member. However, I have been involved with ACUI in different volunteer leadership capacities since 1996 having served as the former regional director of what was then Region V (North Carolina/South Carolina/Virginia/Tennessee/Kentucky).

Back in 2014, I heard about an opening for an interim nclusivity coordinator (prior to the Regional Conference at the University of La Verne), and I was honored to have been selected to serve the region in this volunteer leadership role for a year on the Regional Leadership Team in this interim capacity. I then ran for the permanent inclusivity coordinator position and served Region I in this capacity for two consecutive years from 2015–2017.

During my tenure as the inclusivity coordinator, we continued our dedicated focus on diversity and inclusion session offerings for our regional conferences and began some preliminary work on assessing the interest of our members to create a DNA (Diversity Network Alliance) resource directory.

Through my involvement with the Diversity Council, this now allowed me to participate in key discussions that would embed the importance of the Diversity Council in ACUI’s strategic plans and to do more to support and enact the Association’s diversity and inclusion mission and vision through different initiatives (including benchmarking and research). At that time, I helped to spearhead one of two webinar workshops on civil discourse and social justice (following what arose at the University of Minnesota and Ferguson).

Briefly share your experience about your attendance at the Region I Conference in San Diego.

I enjoyed my experiences attending this year’s Regional Conference from a different level of involvement as a Conference Planning Team member. This being one of the largest regional conferences we have hosted was a plus too.

I believe we offered an eclectic array of educational program sessions, featuring relevant speakers (Dr. Luke Wood) and featured panelists for our all conference plenary session, social activities, and awards program.

In working “behind the scenes” of hosting a conference, I learned more about what is required for us to build it (moreover sustain it), ranging from zero based budgeting, recruiting sponsors (i.e., fundraising), how we determine key features to present before/during the conference (i.e., tours, plenary sessions, catering, conference marketing, the logistics associated with each session/registration, and in recruiting our student entertainment).

As a Regional Leadership Team and Conference Planning Team, I know that we are all proud of the fact that we met if not exceeded the expectations now only of those who attended the conference but also our bottom line (fiscally), which we should cherish and hopefully benefit from in order to support the next Regional Conference (Region I and Region IV) even better next year in Reno!

What was your initial thought/reaction when you were recognized and awarded by the region?

It was wonderful to be recognized by my colleagues in this way especially in how they viewed my overall long-term commitment through my volunteer leadership work within the Association and more specifically within the Region I as not only value-added but more importantly, living up to the spirit of this award for distinguished service.

Naturally, I was speechless (which is not the norm for me) when Debra Hammond presented this award (as the more she spoke about who the reward recipient was without revealing my name; I thought, “that sounds like me”) and again I was so humbled by it as well.

Throughout my professional career I have always been keen on what we can do to transform the norms not only on our campuses but also through the professional associations, we all belong to.

Therefore, I will remain forever grateful to Region I for the opportunity to serve our members in the different roles I have played over the years.

Do you have any general comments?

I do have to give credit where credit is due in Region I to both Carol and Kathy (along with those I worked closely with on our Regional Leadership Team) who have supported me in my previous inclusivity coordinator roles; Debra Hammond who is one of my dear wo-mentors; Su Hoon Tan (who enlisted me to serve on the Conference Planning Team) and our 2018 Conference Planning Team (super to work with); Elizabeth Beltramini (ACUI to whom all of the inclusivity coordinators work with in the Association and also the Diversity Council).

I would also like to say “thank you” too to for our awards team (Tim Rasmussen who chairs it now) for their consideration among others nominated for the award for me to bestow this special honor to me which is life-affirming and means the world to me to be acknowledged by the region in this way.

Region I Staff-Driven Program of the Year – Kristopher Disharoon, California State University–East Bay
Program: Pioneer Activities Council

Kristopher DisharoonHow long have you been involved with ACUI Region I?

I have only been involved with Region I a little over a year; however, I have been in another Region before.

Briefly share your experience about your attendance at the Region I Conference in San Diego.

I enjoyed the conference more than last year. I thought the educational sessions were more diverse, and I felt I took away a wealth of information not only for myself but my institution. Attending this conference made me stress that ASI should be more involved in the region and not solely those individuals that only work in the University Union. When I got back, I strongly suggested that we send students to the next drive-in or Regional Conference if possible.

What was your initial thought/reaction when you were recognized and awarded by the region?
I was surprised as I wasn’t sure in the beginning how to categorize the nomination since it started with me and then was slowly being driven by the students towards the end.

Region I ICONS 2018 Inductee – Kathy McIntosh, Cathedral Catholic High School

Kathy McIntoshHow long have you been involved with ACUI Region I?

I have been involved with ACUI since I was a graduate student in 1996. Over the past 22 years, I have been blessed with wonderful mentors, especially Matt Cameron and Susan Payment, who encouraged me to get involved with ACUI. ACUI is definitely my professional organization of choice and has provided me the opportunity to grow, to be challenged and to give back. 

Briefly share your experience about your attendance at the Region I Conference in San Diego.

I loved the Region I Conference experience in my hometown of San Diego! The regional conference always reminds me of the reason we work in student union/activities—the students! I am always inspired by the student attendees who bring energy and enthusiasm to the conference. It is also a great opportunity for the “seasoned” professionals to reconnect and support each other. Many thanks to the Conference Planning Team and San Diego State University for hosting us!

What was your initial thought/reaction when you were recognized and awarded by the region?

My first thought was of all the other ICONS that have come before me and how each one of them influenced my life in special ways. They have shared stories, advice, good food, laughter, and many years of friendship. It was also really cool to have my dear friend Cecilia Ortiz present me the award, since we have grown up together in ACUI.

Do you have any general comments?

ACUI is about more than the work we do. It is about supporting each other as human beings. ACUI, thank you for making me a better person! 

Well Deserved and with Great Honor and Respect! – Ellen Kusano, University of Hawai‘i–Hilo

Ellen KusanoHow long have you been involved with ACUI Region I?

I’m pretty sure I’ve been involved from almost the beginning of my career here. I started in December 1990, and I think my first involvement was the Hawai‘i subregion conference in fall 1991. I don’t remember my first regional conference then got really involved with the 1995 Conference Program Team. 

Briefly share your experience about your attendance at the Region I Conference in San Diego.

It was wonderful to be able to attend the San Diego conference! Since I had to cancel out of the 2018 Annual Conference in Anaheim, I was so sad that I wouldn’t get to see folks who have come, over these many years, to mean a great deal to me. Then, I got approval for San Diego and that was super. Then to find out the surprise that Joanna, Maile, Gabby, Ciara, Hannah, probably you and others had concocted was beyond awesome! The photos, lei, Joanna’s songs, the plaque, and the ultimate, the oli (chant) from our students was mind-blowing. I rarely cry but my heart was so touched that the tears just came! This region is, as we say in Hawai‘i, da bestest, Region I no ka o‘i.

What was your initial thought/reaction when you were recognized and awarded by the region?

All of the above. It was jaw-dropping! And those old photos from years ago especially touching was the one that I’m wearing a cap that was because I was still bald from my chemo treatments my Hawai‘i ACUI colleagues welcomed me back with so much caring and pretty much kept looking out that I didn’t wear myself out that year. That is the spirit of ACUI!

Do you have any general comments?

ACUI has been the most tremendous resource anyone in our field, student development/student life, must take advantage of to become the best possible servant leader for our students. I’ve stressed to our staff, and just today, said the same thing to our vice-chancellor for student affairs. ACUI is well-worth the fee we pay. The benefits we get back are immeasurable and the network is so broad and so deep! This might be just a wee bit biased, but I think Region I is the most fun, most relevant, most responsive, most aloha of all regions. Mind you, I only know individuals from other regions who are also great friends and colleagues. I don’t know other regions as “regions.” Still Region I stands out for its passionate commitment to fellow professionals and to our students. When I see the long-standing relationships that often have led to friendships, it’s encouraging for the next generation to know that they can expect the same open arms from those in Region I. As an “oldie”, it’s good to see the “young‘uns” stepping up for those who may be following them.

Once you’ve shared your knowledge and learning, let folks run and be okay if they fall. Lend a hand if they need it, but be okay if they want to get up on their own. Be compassionate but be okay with those who are still finding their way. Live ALOHA!