Robert W. MacVittie College Union, SUNY–Geneseo
Four-year, public, rural
Full-Time Enrollment: 5,431
Location: Geneseo, New York
Robert W. MacVittie College Union
Year Built: 1970
Size: 78,100 sq. ft.
Director: Charles “Chip” Matthews
Student Staff: 10 full-time; 108 part-time
Nonstudent staff: 6 full-time
From SUNY–Geneseo’s MacVittie College Union, one can see the sunset over Genesee Valley and a landscape of historic beauty, once
a land of gardens, orchards, and vineyards cared for by tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy before the American Revolution. Geneseo, after all, is an anglicizing of the Iroquois town Gen-nis-he-yo, meaning “beautiful valley.”
Some say the sunsets seen from MacVittie are priceless, and they are surely an amenity that heightens the student leadership and applied learning experiences that keep the union abuzz. In 2016, SUNY–Geneseo merged its Office of Residence Life under the Department of Student Life name, which now manages not only the union, but the entire campus living program, and numerous cocurricular educational and assessment initiatives.
With the change, opportunities for students now include a speaker series, living-learning communities and residential college houses, student organizations, summer experience programs, as well as other involvement opportunities, such as Geneseo Late Knight, Weeks of Welcome, and MOSAIC Cultural Awareness Series. Additionally, Upstate Escapes offers student organizations, faculty, and staff up to a $400 grant to help fund transportation costs for cultural, recreational, social, and educational trips. The Victor E. Knight mascot program is part of a competitive mascot madness five-round tournament to select New York’s favorite mascot, coinciding with the March Madness basketball tournament. And the department is also known for its GOLD Program (Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development) and the 10 student internships it offers in which individuals can create an e-portfolio.
Add those unique programs to the everyday services students require—a credit union, marketplace, bookstore, coffee shop, and games room—and some special events based on the student calendar, like a Holiday Jubilee and a pre-finals 24-hour Cram Jam, and MacVittie is the campus anchor for activities. In fact, the Starbucks in MacVittie was the first of its kind to have a performance stage built within its design.
Union director Chip Matthews recalled at least one occasion when a performance planned for MacVittie grew to a scale staff had not anticipated. Luckily it had not been scheduled in the Starbucks.
“In 2015, we had contracted with a popular band, Walk the Moon, just weeks before they dropped a new album that became wildly popular,” Matthews recalled. “We had planned to host them in our union ballroom, but we found that the power the act required was a bit much for the building: Every time the drummer hit the bass drum the lights would go dim.”
Matthews said staff jumped on the issue and solved it just 10 minutes before the doors opened.