On the Job with Joe Gimmarco
Joe Gimmarco is the Student Union Operations Coordinator at University of Akron's Jean Hower Taber Student Union.
What are some of the latest advances or improvements in your facility or operations?
I believe our greatest advance since I began 18 months ago, and not just as a building but as a university, was the decision to become a smoke- and vapor-free campus as of June 1, 2017. Not only has this improved efficiencies and saved money, as our grounds crew no longer must purchase smoking receptacles and worry about staffing people to empty and replace them, but it has created a healthier campus environment for our students and guests.
What are the challenges in maintaining a dynamic, versatile, and appealing built environment that meets the needs of a diverse population?
There are so many different entities that exist in the union that have a daily impact on the environment of the building who are not members of The Department of Student Life. … Making sure that we are all on the same page and are working toward the same goal of meeting the needs of our student population can sometimes be difficult. Fostering relationships and taking the time to get to know each other and how we operate can help combat some of these challenges.
Can you think of an event that you never could have imagined occurring at your facility?
Our biggest conference of the year, Founders’ Day Celebration weekend, is organized by Alcoholics Anonymous, which was founded in Akron. Our entire campus is rented out to Alcoholics Anonymous, and we see anywhere from 5,000 to 12,000 guests who have traveled from all over the country and the world. The union becomes a combination of a dining hall, conference center, and general gathering place for the attendees of the conference. We are open 24 hours per day during that weekend, and we are truly all-hands-on-deck. It is definitely our most unique event and one of my personal favorite weekends of the year!
If you were handed an unexpected increase in your budget, what would you spend that money on?
Anything that makes the experience of our visitors more memorable and makes a process more user-friendly for my student employees intrigues me. Advancements such as interactive touchscreen kiosks for dining, automatic compacting trash receptacles and recycling bins, and the ability to control our entire theater lighting and sound system from the touch of a button remotely on a tablet is where I would want to invest that money. I’d also love to allocate a portion of it toward the students in our department. Without them, none of what we do is possible.