Welcome to this year’s edition of the Callout magazine, the publication that allows us to look back on the past year and highlight some of the fine work that Student Affairs does.
Inside, you’ll find stories about students who have thrived against the odds, cherished Auburn traditions celebrating milestones, new administrators bringing their expertise to our division and programs that have produced top-notch results year after year.
You’ll read about Kyle Venable, who, at age 42, recently graduated and now helps others like him at the Auburn Student Veterans Association, and Eduardo Medina, a first-generation college student and budding journalist. We’ll celebrate as Auburn’s Panhellenic begins its 90th year, and we’ll take a look at a bass fishing team that draws students from all over North America.
There is a thread that binds all of these stories together. I think you’ll find in every one of them some, if not all, of the core values of Student Affairs. Yes, we are committed, honest, respectful, responsive, dependable and passionate, and we prove that every single day. You’ll see those values at work on every page.
So sit back and enjoy a brief trip down memory lane. We’re already hard at work this year, I know, but this Callout allows us a brief chance to look back on what we’ve already accomplished.
Bobby R. Woodard, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President for Student Affairs
Joffery Gaymon doesn’t drink coffee.
But that didn’t stop Auburn’s new vice president for Enrollment Services from agreeing to being a Callout Coffee Chat subject, talking about her favorite Auburn spot, her plans for her departments and what she does in her free time.
Gaymon, who earned her doctorate in higher education administration from Northeastern University, brings significant expertise to Auburn. Her career in university enrollment and student recruitment began at Georgia College and State University. She held enrollment positions of increasing responsibility at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort, from 2008 to 2013. She served as vice president for enrollment and student affairs at the University of West Florida, where she has held similar positions since 2013.
As she spoke at the Starbucks in the Student Center, Gaymon enjoyed water out of a titanium bottle she had just received at the Southeastern Conference Enrollment Services meeting. She joked that the bottle itself was heavy enough to be a weapon.
If all of the student recruiters were out and you had to lead a campus tour – where is the first place you would take the group?
Samford Lawn. Out of all the universities I’ve visited and worked at, I think it is something that makes Auburn so unique. It is not uncommon to see people hanging out on the lawn. People really feel like the university is part of the community – you see students and families. It is really just an inviting front porch.
When you are not reviewing enrollment materials for incoming freshmen, how do you relax?
I love to read – I am currently reading a lot of enrollment- related books. The one book that is on my desk currently is Nathan Grawe’s “Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education.” It discusses the shifting demographics in higher education and the decrease in high school graduates. Everyone is kind of aware that the number of high school graduates is going to decline significantly, but what Grawe does is take it a step further by putting data into terms of socioeconomic status, household, where the students are coming from, etc. and uses that to calculate a higher education demand index. This index forecast looks at the high school graduates who are going off to college by determining where they are going because of their changing backgrounds. That is going to be the telling point for a lot of universities. Outside of reading, I try to work out as much as I can. I also love to play outside with my 7-year-old twins, Caleb and Chloe.
What has been the biggest surprise since moving to Auburn?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the genuine nature
of the notion of the Auburn Family. It is talked about – when I was interviewing, through every aspect it came up — but you don’t really understand what it means until you are a part of it. It has truly been such a welcoming environment – the university, students, faculty and staff. In the community external to the university, it certainly happens as well. The transition has been wonderful.
You have multiple areas that report to you. Talk about how each of these comprehensively fits into the student experience.
From the Student Affairs perspective, in Enrollment Operations and Undergraduate Admissions, we are identifying the right students who are going to be successful from the start. We are admitting students who are ready for success and are a good fit for the university. That is our job from the beginning. From orienting and acclimating them to the university through First Year Experience, or ensuring they have the tools they need to be successful through Academic Support and University Scholarships, I think it is the other part of the student experience that helps students thrive while they are enrolled. We help support students in being well-rounded leaders on campus. It is a nice complement to the traditional student life experience.
Where do you see Auburn Enrollment Services in five years?
I think that in five years (I would like to say three years) we are utilizing technology and are forward-thinking. We will have a lot of streamlined processes and be very efficient and extremely proactive in prospective student recruiting. I want us to think out of the box in our recruiting and really being able to provide a personalized experience for all types of students – thinking of non-traditional students, freshmen, first-generation or second- generation, etc. I think we will have a shop that its very agile, forward-thinking and provides a great service to the university through informing both academic and non-academic units about what is happening and how the class is changing. I want us to be seen as a leader.
What have I not asked you that you hoped I would?
Yeah! We didn’t talk about my favorite thing about Student Affairs at Auburn. I think that Student Affairs has so much energy and vibrancy. It penetrates throughout the entire division from the leadership down. The leadership is forward- thinking, that is doing the right things for the right reasons to support our students. It’s a great division to be a part of.
By Tess Gibson
Mackenzie Johnson was on a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with a group of friends in November 2016 when his life changed forever.
The Wofford College sophomore fell from a 35-foot balcony, fractured his T12 vertebra and was paralyzed from the neck down.
But during his rehabilitation, Johnson saw a Facebook post that would change his life again. It was for a wheelchair basketball camp, and that camp ultimately led to Johnson transferring to Auburn University and joining the school’s wheelchair basketball team.
“The program allowed me to get back into school after my injury,” Johnson says. “It provides the structure and consistency I needed in my life to get back to living a healthy, productive life.”
The Adaptive Sports program, part of Auburn’s Accessibility department, has been around for about a decade, and basketball has been one of its sports since the beginning.
For the past three years, the team has been coached by Robb Taylor, and he’s brought some national recognition to the group. Competing in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, three players earned post-season honors after the 2018-19 season: Blake Loftin was named an Academic All-American, Fisher Rizk was an Academic All-American honorable mention, and Nick Oman was named to the All-Rookie Team.
That success is good for the team, but Taylor’s goal is to help his team in the classroom. “If they have that work ethic on the court, they will have it off the court in the classroom,” he says. “That will help them in their careers afterward.”
Some of Taylor’s players, like Johnson, who is studying accounting, have a degree as their ultimate goal, while some hope to take their athletic careers beyond Auburn. They all came to the wheelchair basketball team with varying degrees of experience.
“Injuries happen at any point in life,” Taylor says. “Some student-athletes on the team were born with their disabilities, so they’ve played wheelchair basketball their entire life. We’ve got some others who’ve experienced their disability later in life.”
Haven Hart, Auburn’s assistant vice president for Student Development, has seen first-hand how the wheelchair basketball team has helped students.
“It means so much to students and prospective students because there is a place for them to participate in competitive sports at this institution,” she says. “As the program grows and becomes more known … it shows our students that they matter, and it shows that we care about their well-being and interests, and that is great for our university and community.”
Johnson agrees, and he hopes that the team’s growing popularity also introduces people to something they might not have seen before. “Too often in sports and in life, people with disabilities are seen as lesser than and sympathized for – sometimes to the point of pitying,” he says. “I would love to invite the community to a practice or tournament to break that perception and showcase we are athletes in an intense competitive sport.”
Talk to Johnson for any length of time and he describes his team and teammates as most any athlete would. Words like “family” and “competitive” come up.
“We spend a lot of time with each other and share a strong bond,” he says. “Every day, we battle for and against each other to make ourselves better.”
By Jayla Coleman
The Auburn Family is strong and always looks out for their own, so it is no surprise that so many students hold job positions on campus that were created to help their peers.
Students helping students embodies the Auburn Creed, bringing together hard work and the human touch.
Students’ jobs can vary all over campus, from housing to recruiting to tutoring and more. However, each position was shaped to help and support other students.
Though the job descriptions are based on the worker helping others, in most cases, they benefit and grow from their job like the peers they are helping, as well.
Being fresh out of high school and moving into a place without family can be overwhelming, even though few will actually fess up to those homesick feelings. However, resident assistants, commonly known as RAs, are like the older sibling who is always around for whatever students need in their residence halls.
Senior Will Hayes was an RA in Broun Hall during the 2018-19 school year. His experience was like nothing else before in his life.
“Community building is by far my favorite part of the job,” Hayes says. “This past year, in Broun Hall, almost all of our students were from out of state, meaning unlike many students, they did not have a friend group coming in.”
RA-sponsored programs helped the students bond and become friends within the first few months of the fall semester. It didn’t take long for them to hang out separate from the housing events, and Hayes is proud those relationships were formed because of the heart he put into his work.
“By the end of the year, our hall truly felt like a family. Not only did everyone know each other, but everyone genuinely cared and supported each other as well,” Hayes said. “I have no doubt that the relationships I made in Broun this past year will last a lifetime.”
Hayes’ experience as an RA has strengthened his college experience as a whole.
“Being an RA has been one of the best things I have done at Auburn,” Hayes said. “No other activity has given me a deeper understanding for the true meaning of the Auburn Family.”
On the second floor of the Student Center, nudged between the frequented Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A, there are student workers waiting to help their fellow peers with anything they need.
Angel Newell uses her job at the James E. Foy Desk to help new, current and prospective students with answers to all of their questions. If the student workers don’t have the answer to a question readily available, they work to get it.
For Newell, she enjoys being a helpful source for students on campus.
“The most rewarding part of my job is helping guests find their way and being someone that makes visiting Auburn a stress-free experience,” she says.
The student workers at the Foy Desk are not just an Auburn encyclopedia. They are the people to go to for opening reserved rooms in the Student Center and giving directions to visitors.
Newell knows she is someone that students can go to about questions for the University and the city.
“If you have any questions about Auburn University don’t hesitate to ask the Foy Desk,” she said.
A quick visit to the second floor of the Student Center or calling 334-844-4244 can show any student how dedicated the student workers at the Foy Desk are.
A newer opportunity on campus, peer instructors work alongside professors to create a dynamic classroom experience in which
a student is taught and advised by both an expert and someone who was recently in their shoes.
Junior Ann Marie Stone and senior Jayla Coleman have both worked as peer instructors for seminars. Some responsibilities were similar to that of assistants, like taking role, grading and monitoring the class. However, their biggest responsibility was helping their peers.
Stone focused on the “Tip of the Day” in her first-year seminar, something that students were receptive to, as Stone had struggled a lot transitioning her first year into university life.
“I was able to tell the students how I overcame the problems I faced and specific steps and/or resources I used from Auburn’s campus,” Stone says. “I feel as though the biggest way I helped students was being able to show them that I faced many of the challenges they were facing. I was able to show them that I was just like them, a peer.”
Coleman led many stimulating conversations in her first-year seminar, where she helped and encouraged eager freshman to make the most of their resources at Auburn.
She spent a lot of time being hands-on with the peers she was instructing.
“I sent them into the world with new eyes and more understanding of things outside of their normal perspective on life,” Coleman says . “I also became full-blown mentor to one of the students in the class.”
Both Stone and Coleman said they benefited from their job just as much as the students they oversaw. To them, peer instructing is mutually beneficial for all students, peer instructors and professors involved.
Some classes with peer instructors are required in first-year programs, but speaking with an advisor is the best way to learn more about taking or mentoring a course with a peer instructor.
Auburn’s twist on a traditional tutoring program is Study Partners, where tutors and their fellow students they help are like a team, working on the course together.
Claire Mattingly, a tutor for nursing courses, pre-calculus, human anatomy and physiology, said students do not necessarily have to be struggling in a course to get a study partner.
“Coming to Study Partners can simply be a great way to further prepare yourself for an upcoming test by working and studying with someone who has already taken the course and has been in your shoes,” Mattingly said.
As a study partner, Mattingly spends an hour each session with a fellow student and works with them to better their knowledge of the subject. Sessions can be scheduled Monday to Thursday from noon to 5 p.m.
She said her favorite part of her job is when she feels that her student leaves their session feeling more prepared and grasping a better understanding of the material than when they got there.
The desk for Study Partners is located on the second floor of the library, and appointments can be made on Advise Assist, the University’s scheduling portal found through AUAccess, or by calling the desk at 334-844-5702.
These students aren’t as openly seen around campus in matching shirts like many other student jobs, but the work they put into on
the clock helps to shape Student Conduct for Auburn University.
Third Party Investigators work with students and Student Conduct to get the full, honest story when the University is looking into things closely within different groups and organizations on campus.
For example, senior Lauren Brands worked on investigations for the Panhellenic Council last school year. Brands worked with students who needed an unbiased observer to help interview and understand what happened. The hope is that it would prevent hazing, or breaking alcohol rules, or whatever the allegation, in the future.
“I think the most rewarding part about it was knowing that I was helping the University to figure out what happened while still being able to be reasonable and understanding of the situations since I also was a college student in order to help reflect what happened in a way so that the punishments for what happened were much more fair and reasonable,” Brands says.
Recent graduate Justin Smith worked with the group during his time attending the University. His biggest concern was getting the whole truth during investigations in order to fully help students in every capacity the Third Party Investigators could.
“One of the worst errors Student Conduct can make is to issue a ruling on a case when there is incomplete information,” Smith says. “At the end of the day, we’re just working to help students. We don’t want them to be nervous or hesitant to interact with us; we’re not out to get you.”
To student workers like Brands and Smith, Third Party Investigators is here to help students of the past, present and future continue a healthy, safe live and to ensure that opportunity for everyone on campus.
If there is anything a student feels is not right in an experience on campus or in their organization, it is encouraged for everyone to reach out to Student Conduct, and from there, the University’s Third Party Investigators will likely be there to help.
Prospective students come to The Plains for tours, wide-eyed and full of questions. Picking the best college is a high order, but Auburn University’s student recruiters are the front line of showing perspective students the beauty of the campus and the strength of the Auburn Family.
Sixty student recruiters help turn possible students into incoming freshmen or transfers. Junior Nathan Holden works as a Student Recruiter, putting future Tigers first.
“To put it simply, Student Recruiters show off Auburn,” Holden said. “It is likely that we are the first Auburn students that guests interact with, so it is our privilege to welcome them with Auburn’s characteristic hospitality. By always sharing much more than facts on our tours, we aim to convey a complete portrait of Auburn life to potential future Tigers.”
To Holden, Auburn is more than just orange-brick buildings and impressive statistics. Auburn combines that and a family-like atmosphere that transcends any other university experience, he said.
“I love clarifying that we are the Auburn Tigers who say War Eagle by telling the story of how a compassionate soldier nurtured a wounded war eagle, of how the soldier grew up to become a wise professor who carried the wounded eagle everywhere he went, and of how that eagle miraculously soared around the field during Auburn’s first football game to inspire the Tigers to victory,” Holden said.
Some believe that story isn’t true, but Holden believes the story touches hearts to all he tells it to, even convincing the strictest of visitors to yell the battle cry after listening.
Camp War Eagle Counselors
The anticipation and nerves of fall semester for freshman are taken care of thanks to the hard workers with the Camp Ear Eagle team.
Once students are enrolled, the Camp War Eagle team for their year is some of the first people they meet in Auburn in preparation for registration. They work together to give incoming students a proper welcome and keep the excitement going.
Saigim Garcia and Landon McNellage have worked as CWE counselors and know how integral a good CWE orientation is for the Auburn first-year experience.
“I help them remember that the bar was set high for them and since they made it in, they should keep that same drive and mindset going into their future classes, clubs, and organizations,” Garcia says.
The counselors don’t just show up during the summer and start working, though, and being a CWE counselor doesn’t stop at the end of each session.
“We train for three hours a week starting in January and then add an additional two hours a week starting in February for skit practice,” McNellage says. “Our job is to continually be a resource to the students we are fortunate enough to have in our groups, whether it be for the Fall semester or until we graduate.”
Each CWE counselor gets to work with, on average, 130 incoming freshmen. The week isn’t intense or meant to feel that way. Counselors want new students to feel like they are receiving a warm hug into the Auburn Family – and not warm just because of the Alabama heat.
“Everything that happens in camp for the students is for a reason, and the counselors have been training since January to make sure this experience is great for those freshmen,” Garcia said. “We love this school and this program — War Eagle!”
By Mikayla Burns
If Auburn University’s student body takes one thing away from knowing some student veterans, Kyle Venable wants it to be this – that student veterans are “like everyone else.”
“We have a lot of pride when we wear our shirts that say student veterans,” he says. “Yeah, we want people to know we’re veterans. But don’t think that we’ve all been in combat, that we’re all killers with PTSD. We’re students.”
There’s no disputing it, Venable is a successful guy. A veteran, a student leader (he was president of the Auburn Student Veteran Association) and a father, Venable’s reach on Auburn’s campus is far and wide.
“Everyone talks about the Auburn Family,” Venable says. “I didn’t really know what that meant until I stepped on campus for the first time.”
His first visit to campus, he was awestruck by the football stadium and the scenic campus. Born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, he had been an avid LSU fan his whole life. He knew relocating to Auburn would be impactful — new classes, new Tigers to cheer for, new opportunities.
But he didn’t know just how impactful he would be on Auburn.
“I came to an SOS session over the summer, the last one they offered and the only one I could get into,” says Venable, referring to Auburn’s orientation sessions for transfer students. “I met with my advisor, who showed me where the business school was and told me which classes I needed to be taking.”
Venable says he was met with his first challenge almost right away when he talked to an advisor. “She told me that most of the classes were full, so I needed to find the professors and basically beg them to let me into their classes,” he says with a laugh. “Yeah, that was tough.”
Venable says his first semester at Auburn was pretty much uneventful. He had visited the Veterans Resource Center once to sign his GI Bill paperwork, the funding that covers his tuition. But other than that one trip, he didn’t involve himself with the Veterans Resource Center. All of that changed one October afternoon, when he received an email.
“It went to all the student veterans saying that Coach Kim Evans would be offering golf lessons,” says Venable. “I’ve been a huge golf fan my whole life – started playing when I was 14, self-taught, you know, never had a lesson. I didn’t know who she was, but I looked her up and saw how accomplished she was. I knew I had to go.”
Venable was excited to attend the golf camp. He thought it would be a small event where he might form connections with a few student veterans. He got to the camp and immediately knew he had found his people.
“I met about 10 people who started telling me about the Student Veterans Association,” he says. “I started asking them some questions, and they told me about their Veterans Gala they had coming up, which sounded great to me. I got involved right then and there. Since then, I think I’ve been in the Veterans Resource Center every day. It’s become my home away from home.”
While Venable feels at home in the Veterans Resource Center now, he says he didn’t always feel that he fit in on campus.
“At 42, I don’t have the typical ‘student experience’,” he says. “People ask me if I’m a professor a lot.”
Venable says that treating school like his job helped him find drive and autonomy as a student veteran.
Most student veterans “now consider school our job,” says Venable. “We get the GI Bill, which covers our tuition and gives us a stipend. If you don’t spend that wisely, most of us can’t afford it. This is our job. You have to be able to focus your time, have good time management and make sure all of your classes are lined up to graduate within that 36 months that you’re covered.”
Being a student veteran requires a certain mentality above just going to class, Venable says. It is about learning to think outside the box and utilize all of the resources available to you.
“Meeting with your advisors is key. They have that track for you, and they really keep you on it,” Venable says. “But sometimes, we have to go above and beyond to get things done ourselves. Things like taking 16-18 hours each semester. Focusing on it like it’s a job really tailors who we are.”
This level of discipline is admirable, but Venable insists that serving his country forced him and his fellow veterans to adhere to a certain level of self-management. Venable, a Marine, had three combat deployments – two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
“The military instills discipline and leadership in us. Time management. You better be on time, or there’s ramifications,” he says. “Being able to focus – study habits, knowing yourself, all that. I learned all of that while serving.”
While the military instills discipline and time management in its troops, it also instills habits of self-sufficiency. Venable says that sometimes his self-sufficiency can make it difficult to ask for help.
“A lot of times, asking for help is really hard for veterans. We like to think of ourselves as self-sufficient,” explains Venable. “In my case, I’ve had to ask an 18-year-old student for help in math. You know, it’s been 25 years since I’ve seen this stuff. And it can feel weird asking. But you just have to do it.”
What Venable loves most about the Veterans Resource Center and the Auburn Student Veterans Association is the bonding, reminiscent of the bonds formed while serving in the military.
“I tell everyone that we really create our own tribe here. Like in the military, your unit is your family,” explains Venable. “Once you leave the service, you kind of lose that. You disconnect. You come to campus, and most everyone is 18-21 years old.”
He explains to me that most student veterans are about 25-28 years old. While this age gap can make them feel isolated from traditional students, the Auburn Student Veterans Association works hard to give all student veterans a sense of belonging.
“Having our own place in the Veterans Resource Center to come hang out makes it to where we can ask each other questions and talk about our own experiences,” he says of the offices in Foy. “We have mentorship programs, tutoring and other programs designed by veterans for veterans. We all really have each others’ backs.”
Since becoming involved with the Auburn Student Veterans Association in 2016, Venable has made many notable contributions to the organization, including developing a veteran- specific orientation program called the Auburn Warrior Orientation and Learning program, or A.W.O.L.
“The program is huge because it’s led by us, for us,” Venable says. “It allows student veterans to learn from other student veterans, and utilize our resources. We can say to each other, you know, these professors are good for this class, these professors are understanding of our needs, these apartments are good. We want it to be comprehensive.”
In addition to creating A.W.O.L., Venable has also played a big hand in Operation Iron Ruck, a 150-mile march from Auburn to Tuscaloosa that takes place during Iron Bowl week.
Participants in Operation Iron Ruck carry 22-pound rucksacks on their backs filled with donations of toothpaste, deodorant and other household items for veterans. The 22 pounds in the sacks symbolize the estimated 22 veterans who commit suicide each day.
“Operation Iron Ruck, it’s a huge thing,” Venable says. “We really just want to raise awareness and donations. Everyone has been great about helping out with it so far.”
Venable’s slew of accomplishments has not gone unnoticed. He has been nominated for not only awards on Auburn’s campus, but also national awards.
Venable was nominated for national Student Veteran of the Year in 2017 and in 2018. In 2018, he was announced as one of the top 10 candidates for the award.
“When I got the email that I was a top 10 candidate, I learned that it was five men and five women from over 1,500 chapters around the country, and about 750,000 student veterans,” says Venable. “To be one of 10 people out of that huge number was an amazing feeling. I was really taken back by it. It showed that the appreciation for what I had done was there.”
Venable was also recently named the recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award, an award presented to those who place service above self.
“It was a huge honor,” Venable says. “I didn’t do any of this for accolades or anything. But to be recognized put the icing on my president career. It meant a lot and makes me want to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Though he has personally won several awards for his outstanding leadership and service, Venable says that he is most proud when his organization is recognized as a whole.
The Auburn Student Veterans Association was named the Most Exceptional Campus Organization at the 2019 Involvement Awards, which made Venable beam with pride. Venable was also awarded the Student Leader of the Year title.
“I said to everyone as I claimed the award, ‘I want you all up here with me,’” says Venable. “You never do anything by yourself. The team here is phenomenal. The campus organization award was the proudest moment for me. It showed us that we matter.”
As far as Venable’s plans for the future, he’s staying put in Auburn for the time being. He recently took the new job of Veterans Programs Coordinator.
“My passion is for veterans,” he says. “I love doing what I’m doing. I think I’ll always continue to serve in some type of way — my country, veterans, my church.”
By Hollis Huge
By the time Auburn’s Cinderella basketball team had made the Final Four during March Madness, Madison Ogletree was feeling right at home.
Throughout the SEC championship run and March Madness, Ogletree, as photo editor of The Auburn Plainsman, had been right on the sidelines, shooting the games right along with peers from much larger publications.
Still, the Final Four. It was a different group of company altogether, and Ogletree found herself on the baseline of the court at Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium, just behind photographers from Getty Images and The Washington Post.
“Much of what I have learned at The Plainsman has been informed by the paper’s motto, ‘A Spirit That is Not Afraid,’ so, no, I was not afraid of being taken less seriously as a ‘student journalist,’” Ogletree says. “The Plainsman had already instilled in me that I am, in fact, a journalist.”
That’s the goal of all of student media at Auburn, including The Plainsman, the Glomerata, the Circle, WEGL 91.1 FM and Eagle Eye TV. And thanks to support from Auburn’s School of Communication and Journalism, seven journalists from these groups were able to cover the Auburn Tigers during the Final Four, real-life experience that few student journalists get to experience.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to students and administrators from Auburn University Student Affairs taking part in Auburn’s road to the Final Four. From the SGA to Student Media, the vice president’s office to Student Involvement, Student Affairs may not have been on the court with the Tigers, but they were on the sidelines all along the way.
“Following the men’s basketball team to Minneapolis solidified just how great it is to be an Auburn Tiger, for me and others,” says Student Government Association President Mary Margaret Turton, who attended the game with the Board of Trustees. “Basketball fans previously unfamiliar with the Plains fell
in love with the Auburn Family’s unity and determination to exceed others’ expectations. It was an honor to join the Jungle in Minnesota, celebrating our team’s hard work on the national stage.”
“Because most of the tournament took place during weekdays, this was a great way to serve the student body, by providing an atmosphere to cheer on the men’s basketball team together,” Turton says.
For Lady Cox, Auburn’s assistant vice president for Student Engagement, the involvement of Student Affairs in the basketball games fell right into the division’s mission. “I was so pleased to see Student Affairs taking part in what turned out to be a huge highlight for the year at Auburn,” she says. “Our involvement in Minneapolis and the events leading up to the Final Four speaks directly to two important parts of our mission – to engage students and prepare students for future success.”
Ogletree agrees, especially about the latter. “By the time the Final Four rolled around, I had been working at The Plainsman and shooting Auburn basketball for three-and- a-half years,” she says. “In many ways, it felt like the sports photography advice my photo editor passed on to me, influence from my friends at Auburn Athletics and the wide-ranging experience I had developed were all leading up to these high-energy moments at the Final Four. I found covering the good, bad and ugly at the Final Four to be a product of having sharpened my skills and found my style as a photojournalist through my many diverse news experiences at The Plainsman.”
By Alec Harvey
In some ways, Rob Cruvellier’s Auburn story doesn’t differ much from hundreds of others, high-school students from out of state drawn to the school that boasted the likes of Charles Barkley in basketball and Bo Jackson in football and baseball.
Except Cruvellier is from Montreal, Canada. And his sport is bass fishing.
“I saw Jordan Lee compete up north, and I said, ‘Auburn is the place I want to be,’” says Cruvellier, a sophomore majoring in business administration. Jordan is the younger of the brothers Lee, Jordan and Matt, who competed together on Auburn’s bass fishing team about five years ago and now have made names for themselves on the prestigious Bassmaster Elite Series fishing circuit. Their involvement in Auburn’s team took the Auburn Bass Fishing Team to new heights.
“A bunch of schools have fishing teams, but I wanted to come to Auburn,” Cruvellier says. “It wasn’t only the fishing that sold me on Auburn, but that was a big part of it.”
Much the same can be said of Jeff Hopkins, last year’s Auburn Bass Fishing Team president. Hailing from the southwest suburbs of Chicago, he “fell in love with Auburn.”
“I wanted to fish with a university, and I had seen countless videos online of the Lee brothers, and I thought it would be really cool to be on the same team as they were on… I came to Auburn for other factors, but also, having a competitive team is something I really, really wanted,” he says.
Hopkins, who graduated in May, fished with Auburn’s bass team all four of his years at Auburn.
“I probably made every single meeting we’ve had since I came there,” he says with a laugh. “It’s definitely what I live and breathe, for sure. It’s what I love.”
The Auburn Bass Fishing Team – a club sport at Auburn – has been around for about 12 years, Hopkins says. Every fall, the team hosts five tournaments at lakes in the Auburn area. From those tournaments, 12 people are selected for the “travel team,” a group that through sponsorships and dues gets reimbursed for boat and truck gas for several tournaments. Others on the team – the roster had 63 people last year – compete in the same tournaments around the country throughout the year, but they don’t get reimbursed.
“Almost every single weekend, I would assume more than 75 percent of the team would be out on some body of water,” Hopkins says. “We don’t practice, but before our tournaments we’ll go out on the lakes a couple of days before they start, scouting the area out and fishing around. If we’re not fishing, the guys just like to hang out with each other. This is definitely our fraternity.”
That camaraderie, which extends to the two women who were on the team last year, is one of the team’s biggest draws, Hopkins says. “We all enjoy being with each other,” he says. “We all found a group of people at Auburn that we like to hang out with, whether we’re in a boat or not.”
“I’ve met a few guys in the dorm, but having the fishing team as a place where you can meet people and share the same passion is great,” he says. “I didn’t know a single person, but now I have a family. The guys eat together, travel together and hang out together.”
Like Hopkins, Cruvellier joined the bass team as a freshman, showing up at a meeting out of the blue even though he was, yes, a fish out of water.
“When I first got on campus, I saw one of the guys wearing an Auburn fishing team shirt and asked him, and I showed up at the first meeting,” he says. “Everybody was shocked that I was from Canada, but they were all great to me.”
Cruvellier has been fishing since he was 4 years old, but it wasn’t until he made a trip to South Florida with his father that he discovered what he really loved was bass fishing. They still fish together, and they fished area lakes together at Thanksgiving, when his father drove his boat down for him.
“Instead of him going right back, we tried to figure out these lakes together,” Cruvellier says. “He really enjoyed that. He came back down Spring Break, and we rented a place on Smith Lake to practice there.”
But it’s not all about the fish for Auburn’s Bass Fishing Team, which was honored this year for its community service.
“We do a lot of seminars, and we talk to high- schoolers about the team or pick up trash around lakes,” Hopkins says.
Celia and Troy Teel, who helped organize the “Hooks for Hope” fishing event to benefit Children’s Hope, say their event wouldn’t have been nearly the success it was without the help of the team.
“I contacted Jeff Hopkins by Facebook, and 25 of his guys came and brought boats and acted as hosts,” Celia Teel says. “They taught people how to fish and helped the teams during the day … It would have been decent without them, but they made the event.”
The Teels say they would work with the team again in a heartbeat.
“They were so helpful, fun and informative,” Troy Teel says. “They represented Auburn so well. I was so encouraged that they all showed up with the attitude they did. It was great.”
For his part, Hopkins says his group “didn’t feel like we were working at all.”
“That event was awesome,” he says. “It’s probably the best event we’ve ever taken part in.”
After graduation, Hopkins is leaving the bass team behind, but he still hopes to be involved in the fishing industry. “I’m studying finance, and I think I have the ideal resume for a company in the fishing industry to want to hire me,” he says.
Cruvellier, who is competing in tournaments all summer, will continue working toward his business degree, but he just might end up following in the footsteps of his fishing idols, the brothers Lee.
“As far as going pro, I’m keeping the option open,” he says. “I’m going all in with the fishing, but I’m keeping my options open by getting a good degree and keeping my grades up.”
By Alec Harvey
When Patty Mosley Nelson came to Auburn in 1983, she was probably destined to pledge Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.
Her mother, Sue Ellen Mosley Stone, had pledged in 1955, and her sister, Ellen Mosley Stone, was a senior and also an Alpha Gam.
“They knew it was the place for them, but they wanted me to make the best decision for myself,” Nelson says. “However, I loved what it meant for them and I wanted to be a part.”
Nelson pledged Alpha Gam, but this story doesn’t stop there. Ellen married Gordon Stone, and during their courtship was surprised to find out that their mothers were sorority sisters at Auburn. And Ellen and Gordon’s daughter, Emily Stone, also ended up pledging Alpha Gam.
If you’re counting, that’s five women over three generations who were a part of Auburn’s Alpha Gam chapter.
That hit home for Nelson when most of them attended an event last year celebrating Alpha Gam’s 80th year on Auburn’s campus.
“Not only were (Sue Ellen and Ellen) my mother and real sister, they were also my Alpha Gam sisters,” she says. “It was a special moment getting to see my mom see her sorority sisters she hasn’t seen since the ‘50s.”
Bonds run deep in Panhellenic circles, whether they are family-fueled, two women who become best friends as pledges, or somewhere in between. All of that and more will be celebrated during the coming year as Panhellenic celebrates 90 years at Auburn. That’s nine decades of making memories for young women at Auburn.
“Being a part of a Panhellenic organization means you stand for academic excellence, social responsibility, leadership and service to the college campus and community,” says Lindsay Ollis, Panhellenic advisor. “The Panhellenic community provides a space for women to fulfill these ideals and so much more.”
For many more, it means finding a home away from home. Joining a sorority “can help bridge the gap between high school and college,” Nelson says. “It makes Auburn home and gives you a core group that is in the exact same situation you are.”
In the case of Betsy and Steve French, that meant three daughters finding their own groups. Betsy, who graduated in 1984, was
a Kappa Delta. Two of her daughters, Alex and Sally, pledged Delta Delta Delta, and a third, Lizzie, pledged Sigma Kappa. A fourth daughter, Virginia, will go through rush this fall.
Betsy urged her daughters to find groups that they liked, especially the oldest daughter, who felt a little pressure to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
“I didn’t want her to focus on me being a KD as much as finding people she loved,” Betsy says. “She called me before she pledged and said, ‘I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,’ but that was fine with me.”
That a third daughter pledged even another different sorority is emblematic of there being “tons of choices,” Betsy says.
“There are 18 options now, and that’s terrific,” she says. “I tell everyone to go into rush with an open mind, meet the women and do the best they can to find where they feel most at home.”
All 18 of those sororities – which include 5,000 young women right now – will be part of a reunion event in September that will celebrate the past, present and future of Auburn Panhellenic.
“As Panhellenic women, we strive through thought, word and action to uphold the traditions, fine standards and values long held by Auburn women,” Ollis says. “It is our responsibility to establish a legacy for future generations of Auburn women. Through the celebration of 90 Years of Panhellenic on Auburn’s campus, we are celebrating this milestone because it shows this commitment that we have agreed to in our Panhellenic Code of Ethics. To me, celebrating 90 Years of Panhellenic on Auburn’s campus means reconnecting the leadership that helped Auburn Panhellenic be as successful as it is today.”
Many don’t know the scope of what Panhellenic organizations do, including philanthropy and community service during the year.
“We are constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to support our community,” Ollis says. “Some examples include working with offices on Auburn’s campus, such as Auburn Cares, Student Conduct, Student Involvement, Health Promotion & Wellness, and more. We also strive to support our community through service and donations.”
Last year, Panhellenic groups donated more than $50,000 to community organizations, including Boys and Girls Club, Big House Foundation, Haddie’s Home, Footprints Ministry and Habitat for Humanity, Ollis says. “This year, we raised $50,000 dollars through our annual Greek Sing event just for Habitat for Humanity. We are so excited to present this check to them in the fall.”
And then there’s the sisterhood, which runs deep among sorority members and, in some cases, generations deep in particular families.
“When I think about Auburn, I think about Alpha Gam,” Mosley says. “You’re going to be in each others’ weddings, know each others’ children and spend time with each other like no time has passed at all. It’s part of my family, and deep down in my heart it will always be home.”
Betsy French agrees.
“Just like large churches, when you go to a large school, you have to find your small group to find a sense of belonging,” she says. “That’s where it started for me, and some of my sorority sisters became lifelong friends.”
By Taylor Pair
The last phone call Keller Zibilich made to his mother was not out of the ordinary and didn’t send up any kind of red flag.
That weekend in April 2012, Keller, a freshman at Louisiana State University, had finished up the successful interfraternity crawfish boil he was in charge of and planned to join his parents, Michael and Gayle, at a wedding in St. Francisville, 35 miles north of Baton Rouge.
“As always, save me the first two dances,” he told his mother.
But Keller never arrived. Instead, on Saturday morning, friends came to the Zibiliches, already in St. Francisville, and delivered the almost unfathomable news – Keller had taken his own life in Baton Rouge that morning.
“We were with him 12 days before he died,” Keller’s father recalls. “He talked about how wonderful things were at LSU, and the next day he kayaked the Ocoee River. It’s still almost impossible to reconcile these two things.”
Suicidal thoughts sometimes come with warning signs, but with Keller, that wasn’t the case. His family and his friends to this day don’t know what triggered it. “His was what they call an impulse suicide,” Zibilich says. “It was the result of either depression or extreme anxiety.”
“The initial shock of Keller’s death was something that no one can remotely experience,” he adds. “It breaks my heart every day, but you’ve got to make a decision on the emotional front.”
After the initial news and a recovery period that sent Gayle to the hospital, the Zibiliches made their own emotional decision – their only child’s death wasn’t going to be in vain.
“Before Keller’s death, we knew virtually nothing about suicide other than what happened in popular culture,” Zibilich says. “After we settled down after his death, we were determined to find out everything and anything we could about this problem we didn’t know anything about.
We started educating ourselves, and we sat down together and said, ‘How can we make a difference?’”
A Friend Reacts
At Auburn, one of Keller’s best friends from childhood was facing the same dilemma. Kyle Marchuk – “They were the same kids with different names,” Zibilich says of Marchuk and his son – was back home near Roswell, Georgia, for the weekend when he heard the news.
“I was out to eat with a friend of mine, and my phone was blowing up with calls from people,” Marchuk recalls. “’Keller has passed away,’ they said. ‘He took his own life,’ they said. The year later when Marchuk took part in LeaderShape, a national leadership program that Auburn sends a number of students to each year.
“Part of it is asking you what your vision is,” Marchuk says. “I put my idea to pen and paper and then spent my summer putting together some guidelines on how the organization should be run. That was the crux of my inspiration and motivation.”
While Marchuk was working hard to get Active Minds off the ground – he credits Eric Smith in Health Promotion & Wellness Services and Doug Hankes and Dustin Johnson at the Student Counseling & Psychological Services with helping him make it a reality – Zibilich, a successful commercial real estate executive, was becoming a public speaker dedicated to spreading the word about suicide prevention.
A year after his son’s death, Zibilich was asked to speak at the national Sigma Chi Fraternity convention. Keller had been president of his pledge class at Sigma Chi at LSU. “I gave that first large speech and then started getting invited by individual Sigma Chi chapters around the country,” he says. “I ultimately linked up with Active Minds.”
That link came at the invitation of Marchuk, who invited Zibilich to speak at Auburn’s first Out of the Darkness Walk in 2014. Out
of the Darkness Walks take place around the country and are the National American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s signature student fundraising series. This year in Auburn, hundreds of walkers – people touched by suicide in some way – joined Marchuk and Zibilich for Auburn’s fifth Out of the Darkness Walk and raised about $18,000.
“Auburn is one of our favorite spots on Earth,” rest is a blur. I remember getting in my car, and I remember going to church. That’s all I remember. I prayed and cried. It was an agony I had never experienced before. Someone who is 19 years old, you’ve known all your life, and they’re gone.”
Like the Zibiliches, Marchuk was determined that his friend’s death was going to be more than just a statistic. He did some research, found a national group called Active Minds, which raises mental health awareness among college students, and worked to create a chapter at Auburn. It all came together a Zibilich says. “Gayle and I love coming there.”
For both Marchuk, who is in sales with Georgia- Pacific pulp and paper company, and Zibilich, who is about to retire and devote himself to public speaking full-time, putting their energy into suicide prevention was a way to deal with a horrific loss.
“I think people deal with grieving a loss in different ways,” Marchuk says. “I’m such a ‘pull- myself-up-by-my-boot-straps’ guy that I find as much positive as I can. This was a way for me to keep Keller’s memory alive and know his spirit would be kept alive, by actively engaging in the mental health conversation.”
It was similar for Zibilich, who decided something with his wife early on in their post- Keller journey.
“We both made a decision that I would never turn down an opportunity to speak if it was within my power, whether in front of 15 people or 3,000 or to contribute to a documentary or
a radio interview,” he says. “They’d never hear a ‘No.’ There’s always somebody in that audience that we can reach.”
Through a series of golf tournaments that ended this year, the Zibiliches helped fully fund Sigma Chi’s mental health program and the Keller Zibilich Scholarship through the fraternity.
The Keller Zibilich Fund joined with Sigma Chi in 2016 to develop Strong Arms, a program that provides everyone in the fraternity with a mental health program and resources that can help them. This is near and dear to Zibilich’s heart because, even though there were no signs leading up to Keller’s suicide, he did make five phone calls in his final moments to try and get help. None of those calls was to a suicide prevention line, which might have helped.
“We feel like this is our life’s work,” Zibilich says. “Whenever I’m about to walk out there and speak, I’m thinking of him and how he would want us to make a difference. I’m convinced that if he had been in an audience at a college and there was a 1-800 number he was aware of that he’d be alive today. Although that is tragic beyond belief, we want to do whatever we can do for as long as we’ve got left to bring the word that it is OK to talk about mental health, admit you have a problem and seek help.”
There are three things that Zibilich tries to get across in his speaking engagements: 1. Mental health is for everyone; 2. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help or talk about your problems; and 3. Mental health problems are extremely treatable.
“Keller was our only child, but we feel like we’re helping so many others,” Zibilich says. “We’re not trying to be noble or anything. We just feel like if we can bring a voice to this, we’d be bringing value to his life and also help other young people’s lives.”
By Alec Harvey
Walking into an interview, Eduardo Medina is poised and charismatic. He searches around the Plainsman office for a quiet place to chat. Cautiously dipping his head into an empty office, he heads into the space that will soon belong to him.
“This is (Chip Brownlee’s) current office, but it will be mine soon,” he says of the editor-in-chief’s office. Confident and ready to share his story, the Plainsman’s newly named editor arranges his desk and gazes out upon his office.
At just 20 years old, he seems to have his craft pretty well honed. But like all great stories, it didn’t start out this way.
“I spent my first year-and-a-half here not doing much of anything. I don’t think I wrote a single word in three semesters,” Medina says. “It was a weird sensation. It’s like, I knew I wanted to write for a living, but I couldn’t find inspiration anywhere.”
Inspiration came knocking when Medina packed up his things and trekked home to Birmingham for winter break in December 2017. He says he was in
his bedroom of his family’s apartment when his mother knocked on his door.
“I could tell when she walked into my room that she was excited about something,” Medina explains. “We had been talking recently about how we were struggling to pay off college. My mom cleans houses for a living, so that comes with its challenges. But she told me that she had picked up another job and was excited because it didn’t start until 6, and her other job ended at 5, so she would have enough time to make it there.”
As he listened to his mother’s excitement, he looked down at her hands – hard, weathered hands that worked endless hours to provide for him, while his hands couldn’t muster the courage to bring a pen to paper. Medina listened to his mom while trying to hide his tears.
“That absolutely killed me,” Medina says. “I saw how hard she was working, and then I saw a bunch of blank pages in my notebooks. I knew I had no excuse to not make the most of my time here.”
Medina returned to Auburn the following semester with a renewed sense of purpose. Having heard about the Plainsman from a friend, he walked into the Plainsman office in February of 2018.
“My first experience with the Plainsman was attending a budget meeting, where the whole staff gets together,” Medina explains.
“It was terrifying and exhilarating. It was loud and I knew nobody, but when I heard people talking about dashes and semicolons, I knew I had found my group of people.”
Growing up, storytelling had always been a revered tradition in Medina’s family.
“I grew up in a family where we bonded by telling stories,” he says. “My aunts, my uncles, all of us, would gather and they would just tell these amazing stories that made everyone laugh. I think what made them so great were the details and the suspense they were able to create. I knew I wanted to be able to do that someday.”
Medina didn’t become serious about journalism as a profession until 11th grade, when an English teacher saw potential in him. “Mr. Matthews, I’ll never forget him,” Medina says. “He saw a talent in me that he thought was worth something. He always encouraged me to write more, to do more. Him seeing something in me worth pursuing is what made me think that this is something I could really see myself doing as a career.”
After initially becoming involved with the Plainsman in his second semester junior year, Medina began to branch out and find his voice. Joining as a community writer, he covered stories that interested him — pieces on politics, city council meetings and issues around town. He says that getting out into the community and talking with people is crucial to upholding the integrity of journalism, and one of his favorite parts of his job.
“Journalism isn’t about telling one-dimensional stories,” Medina says. “We get out there, we interview as many people as we can, and we try to tell the story and represent the people in the best light we can.”
After serving as a community writer and then as assistant community editor, Medina was promoted again. Serving as enterprise editor, he was now responsible for overseeing investigative stories.
One story in particular that Medina wrote as enterprise editor was about gentrification in Auburn. Taking approximately two months to investigate, Medina spent his time speaking with various community members living in northwest Auburn.
“A cliché people use all the time in journalism is, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,’” Medina explains. In this case though, it proved to be true.
“I spent two months interviewing community members in the predominately black area of northwest Auburn,” Medina says. “I had heard rumors that people were being forced out
of the neighborhood due to student housing being built. This changed the zoning laws, which in turn caused rising property taxes.”
Medina didn’t just hear from the community members, though. Knowing that good journalism presents both sides to any story, he knew that he needed to give the lawmakers allowing this to happen a chance to share their side of the story as well.
“It’s really easy to just attack one side and be too harsh,” explains Medina. “I knew that I needed to talk to the city and hear their defense. There are always two sides to every story.”
Medina’s story ended up exposing the gentrification that was occurring in Auburn, and giving a voice to the previously voiceless.
“I talked to residents who had tried to speak up at city council meetings,” says Medina. “Their concerns went unresolved. They let me into their homes and gave me their stories in return for me sharing their story in an honest light. Sharing these types of untold stories is what I think is the most impactful.”
The gentrification story and others like it have led Medina to some acclaim, including a top eight finish in the national and prestigious Hearst writing championship.
As Medina is preparing to transition into the editor-in-chief position, he reflects on some of the fear he felt in joining the Plainsman for the first time.
“You know, there are different types of fear when it comes to writing. Fear of looking at a blank page, fear of sounding like a phony, fear of asking people questions,” says Medina. “Through it all though, I’ve learned that the fear is really in your head. If you’re afraid to fail, you will never accomplish anything.”
Medina says that those who have the courage to write about difficult topics inspire him the most.
“My hero is for sure James Baldwin. You know Marvin Gaye? James Baldwin writes the way Marvin Gaye sings,” Medina says. “He wrote about race issues in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when people just weren’t talking about those things. He is aggressive and confrontational and in your face, but he makes you think about why things are the way that they are.”
As far as Medina’s legacy, he hopes to see more diversity in the Plainsman and at Auburn as a whole.
“When I first joined the Plainsman, I counted six people of color involved with the organization,” explains Medina. “That is not OK. We are missing valuable perspectives. We are losing stories because of it. It’s very hard to understand communities when you don’t have a writer from that community.”
To combat the lack of diversity in the Plainsman, Medina plans to recruit historically marginalized people from various student organizations across campus.
“I have been attending meetings from the Latina Student Association and the Black Student Union and just trying to get the word out about the Plainsman,” Medina says. “I think also just continuing to tell stories that reflect a wide range of people from various walks of life will continue to attract more people to the Plainsman.”
Medina says he is hopeful for the future. “We’re definitely not there, yet, but we’re on the right track,” he says.
Medina hopes to leave a legacy of top-notch reporting and consistent greatness at the Plainsman.
“We are in a crazy time right now to be journalists, with social media and everything that is going on. It’s all constantly changing,” says Medina. “My fundamental goal of telling good stories is never going to change. If I can graduate and get paid to do what I love, that’s a win in my book.”
By Hollis Huge
They say that what you wear is how you present yourself to the world. For Auburn senior Morgan Maloof, this could not be truer. A self-branded fashionista and regular trendsetter, one would rarely see Maloof around Auburn looking less than fashionable. But there was one area that Maloof lacked in. “I’ve never really had any professional wear,” Maloof says. “I have always loved clothes shopping, but I really couldn’t justify spending $200-$300 on a suit that I’d wear maybe twice a year.”
Enter the Campus Career Closet. A resource created by the University Career Center, in partnership with Auburn Cares and the Student Government Association, the closet is open to all students regardless of financial need.
“I first learned about the Campus Career Closet when visiting the career center,” Maloof says. “I had a mock interview scheduled for an upcoming job interview. When I was leaving the mock interview, one of the people at the front desk informed me about the closet. I didn’t know it was a thing until then.”
Maloof visited the closet with a friend. “My friend and I both had upcoming interviews, and both of us were going to have to borrow professional clothes from friends,” Maloof explains. “We decided to visit the closet the next day.”
Maloof describes the Campus Career Closet as easy-to-navigate and full of great items. “The closet was organized by item, so there were sections for jackets, tops, skirts, pants and even shoes,” says Maloof. “I ended up getting a suit jacket, a blouse and a pair of slacks.”
Maloof interviewed two days later with her dream company, HCA Healthcare. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, the prestigious firm is one of the leading providers of healthcare services in the country. Maloof knew she had to knock the interview out of the park. “Prepping for the interview was nerve-racking — making sure I had all my materials, did all my research and planning all of the logistics and all,” she explains. “I’m a big stresser, so I usually spend hours worrying about what I’m going to wear to something. Interviews are even scarier for me, since first impressions are everything.”
Maloof says that having her outfit already figured out was one less thing she had to worry about on the day of her interview. Pulling on her outfit, she felt confident and professional when heading out the door to her interview.
“Thankfully, with the Campus Career Closet, my outfit was not even something I had to worry about on the day of my interview,” she says. “I was able to feel confident and collected, which I’m sure reflected during my interview.”
Maloof started her position as a Healthcare Administration intern at HCA Healthcare in May. She says she was psyched when she found out she got the position.
“They called me to let me know I had gotten the position, and I just, like, jumped up and down,” Maloof says with a huge grin. “I really think having a good, professional outfit to wear and now keep in my closet made me that much more prepared for the whole interview experience.”
Maloof says that she was relieved to be able to keep the professional pieces for good. Students can keep their clothing, although they’re limited to four items per academic year. (Donations can be dropped off at the University Career Center, 303 Martin Hall).
“I think it’s really cool that they not only let you wear the outfits, but they let you keep them,” Maloof says. “As an upcoming graduate, I’m already worried about budgeting and being on my own and all of that. Not having to purchase a suit is a big relief on my wallet.”
Maloof says that she would recommend the Campus Career Closet to any student, regardless of age or need.
“It’s not every day that you can walk into a room full of great clothes and grab things you need for free,” Maloof explains. “Auburn really gives us all the tools we need to succeed. It’s just about finding them and using them.”
By Hollis Huge
Bryan Rush always wanted to be a football player, but life had other plans for him. A high-school injury eventually led him to higher education, and that career choice has led him to Auburn, where he’s finishing his first year as associate vice president for Campus Living. In his role, he provides leadership to Assessment & Strategic Planning, Campus Dining, Property Management and University Housing. Rush has served at a number of institutions in his career and most recently was dean of students at the University of Southern Indiana. He received his master’s and doctorate from the University of Georgia, where he currently serves as an adjunct faculty member in the College Student Affairs Administration program. Rush is originally from South Carolina, but along with his wife, Heather, and son, Nathan, they now call Auburn home.
Over coffee one rainy Friday morning at Au Bon Pain – he drank a French roast, black – Rush talked about his Auburn experience, path to higher education and more.
Most people do not even know Student Affairs is a career field until they are in college. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always thought I wanted to be a football player. My junior year of high school, I had a major injury that prevented me from playing anymore. For that reason, I ended up choosing a small, private college that did not even have a football program, because at that point I didn’t even want to be around
it. When I got to college I thought I wanted to be an attorney. I became very involved in local politics and was a history major. I spent my time learning as much as I could about the legal enterprise. I interned for an attorney and had a great experience with that and really thought I was going to law school. One Thursday night, I was watching “Friends” and filling out law school applications and I just knew in my heart of hearts this was not my calling. I was at a loss as to what was next. Because I was so involved as an undergrad, I was hired as a recruiter within the admissions office. It was a great first job. I drove around the Southeast visiting local high schools at college fairs recruiting students. One day, I was approached by the assistant director of the department and he asked how I was enjoying things and then proceeded to tell me I could go to graduate school to study higher education. He had attended the University of Georgia (don’t hold that against me!). I visited their campus and really enjoyed the faculty and the assistantships they offered. It was also the number one higher education program in the nation, so that is why I quickly jumped on that opportunity. I met my wife, Heather, there through our cohort – which was the most important thing I walked away with — and got some great experience and my degree. That is really how I began my journey.
What does your typical day look like?
There is no typical day. A lot depends on what the pressing matters are. When my family asks what I do for a living, I jokingly say that I go to meetings and sign things. I feel like a lot of what I do is try to get the most out of my staff. I have a phenomenal staff that I work with, so I look for opportunities to interact with and encourage them. I try to knock down impediments that are in the way for them to reach their goals, I provide fiscal oversight to make sure we are good stewards of the monies that are entrusted to us. I am constantly challenging them to make sure we are giving the best possible experience for our students. One of the things I harp on, and my staff have heard me say 1,000 times, is that I want to remove as many bottlenecks and friction points that we can within our students’ experiences. College is hard enough, so we need to focus on making sure that any processes they may need to go through, such as signing up for a dining plan or selecting a room, are as easy as possible for them and really focus on that customer service experience.
Are you active on Social Media? If so, what is your favorite platform and why?
I am active on social media. A lot of professionals in higher education will separate their personal social media from their official accounts. I just don’t want to do that. There needs to be congruence. If you are not being honest, true and sincere, on either of those, it is not going to be beneficial. I utilize Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I use them for different things. Facebook and Instagram are best from a personal standpoint. It has been great to post pictures as my family and I have moved across the Southeast. I’ve learned no one wants to see pictures of Heather and me, they all want to see pictures of our son, Nathan. You will often see me refer to him as “the little guy.” I enjoy interacting with folks on all of these platforms. Twitter (@sbryanrush) is my more professional account. I like to follow a lot of other higher education professionals and sports figures – I am a huge Denver Broncos fan! I am more than happy to interact with students on social media if they reach out and ask to connect. I think it is a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of what the student’s interests are. It gives us real-time feedback as to what any of the hot-button issues are, be it Campus Dining or University Housing, or really anything else that is going on. As part of my role, I oversee Assessment & Strategic Planning. I think social listening is a great tool and platform that is growing to help us understand the issues on campus.
Were you involved as an undergraduate student? If so, what was your most impactful involvement experience?
I was definitely involved. I went to a small, private residential college that had a lot of opportunities to be involved on campus. I served as a resident assistant (RA), orientation leader and was a member of a Greek organization. I was plugged in with various honor societies such as Omicron Delta Kappa and some specific to history, which was my undergraduate major. I think the most rewarding of these was serving as an RA, working with students who may be in crisis or just trying to find their way. I am a first-generation student and came from a very supportive family but a family who did not know all of the answers of what it meant to go to college and some of the challenges there. I had a phenomenal RA my first year, and I tried to replicate that. The most rewarding thing was working with students who came in, much like I did, with a deer-in-headlights look but were trying to act cool and not show they didn’t know what was going on. I enjoyed helping them to make sure they felt a part of our community, they belonged and this was their home and they have a place at the table.
What is the weirdest thing you’ve found in a residence hall room?
I’ll go back to my days as an undergraduate resident assistant experience. We would arrive on campus early to get things ready for our students, and they would trickle in slowly to move-in. I remember very vividly one night getting up in the middle of the night and walking to the restroom, and as I walked down the hall I noticed there was a hose that was running from the bathroom into one of the residence hall rooms. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so I went to the room the hose was going into. It turned out the student living in that room decided he wanted a water bed that year, so he had brought a water bed to the institution and was filling it up. It was definitely not something I thought I would ever see.
You moved to Auburn 10 months ago. What has been your favorite thing?
I love the Auburn student experience. The new strategic plan refers to it as the “crown jewel” of the university and I could not agree with that more. I think our students are very engaged and are very giving of themselves from a time and emotions standpoint. I have conversations with our student leaders and the level of empathy and emotional intelligence they reflect is impressive. They get it, they understand and they want to leave a legacy that is better than what they brought in with them. It is a highlight to work with such giving and engaged students. Personally, any time you move with a child who is under the age of 15, you are concerned with what that transition is going to look like, but we have been incredibly blessed. We have a neighborhood where there are kids everywhere. With the community we have been able to develop there and the engagement and the involvement in athletics in Auburn – we’ve had a great transition and have found our home for sure.
By Tess Gibson
Emerge at Auburn
Emerge at Auburn is now the name for the student leadership programs department within Student Involvement, dedicated to engaging students at any point in their Auburn Career in programs that will develop their capacity to lead.
Phase 1 – Explore Self focuses on foundational leadership skills for students early in their leadership development journey. Phase 2 – Spark Change engages students in critical thought around the power they hold as leaders and how this can influence others. Phase 3 – Transform Leaders helps students think about how they can apply what they’ve learned to a leadership position on campus, in the community or in their future career field.
Aside from these three phases, this new model also includes workshops, retreats and conference-style learning opportunities that provide open access to students wanting to engage with leadership programs beyond the phases. With the addition of new phases and initiatives, we want to be clear that this program is not just for first year students. Students can join and take part in a leadership program no matter what year they are in.
Auburn is set to start construction on a 48,000-square-foot, three- story dining hall. This dining hall, scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2020, is being built in conjunction with a 151,000-square-foot academic classroom and laboratory complex, or ACLC. The ACLC is set to be completed in summer of 2021. The $26 million dining hall facility will include 800 seats, six food stations, two commercial dining venues and four meeting spaces. The dining hall and the ACLC will be located where Parker Hall and Allison Laboratory currently stand.
Current sophomore Will Mostellar says he is excited about the prospect of new dining options on campus. “Food is a big priority of mine, so hearing about new restaurants coming to campus is pretty neat,” he says. “I love that the new dining hall will be near the science buildings, because I spend a lot of time on that side of campus.”
Peer Wellness Coaching
Health Promotion & Wellness Services is set to launch a Peer Wellness Coaching program in the fall that explores character strengths while focusing on health and well-being. This peer-to- peer concept is an approach that is widely used at universities across the country. Thorough weekly meeting opportunities, students are paired with a trained peer coach to learn to practice their well- being within the Nine Dimensions of Wellness framework.
Currently under construction, the new Campus Recreation SportsPlex will offer a state-of-the-art collegiate recreational experience for Auburn students. “The Plex” will include three multi- purpose fields, two softball fields, two sand volleyball courts and a one-mile walking trail.
This facility will allow for new and exciting programming while meeting the high demands of intramural and club sports, and informal recreation programming needs.
Jennifer Jarvis, executive director of Campus Recreation, is excited for what these updates will do for outdoor programming. “I am so very excited for our students because this is going to be a game changer for our outdoor programs,” she says. “This will elevate our competitive sports programs, and the trail will certainly promote the health and wellness of our students.”
The project is scheduled to be completed late fall 2019 with an opening date scheduled for early spring 2020.
By Tess Gibson and Hollis Huge
Neither Jeff nor Linda Stone really had a choice when it came to whether they’d attend Auburn University.
Both sets of parents graduated from Auburn, as did Jeff’s two older brothers (and, later, Linda’s two younger sisters). And both were born in 1957, the year Coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan led his football team to an undefeated season and the national championship.
“That was a pretty good year for Auburn,” says Jeff, executive vice president for Brasfield & Gorrie. “We didn’t have a chance other than to be Auburn people.”
And that’s what happened, after the two – just friends, then – graduated from Mountain Brook High School in 1975. And they made the most of their time there.
Jeff was in engineering, a rigorous curriculum, so early on, he focused on his classes (although he was involved in some engineering organizations). He found himself in calculus class with Linda Johnson, whom he had gone to high school with, and they struck a deal: He’d tutor her, and she’d cook for him.
“The rest is history,” Jeff says. The two started dating more seriously their junior year and, a year after graduation, they married. (It should come as no surprise that their three children also graduated from Auburn.)
Also that junior year, both Jeff and Linda decided to get involved with the Student Government Association. Both were elected
as senators – he for the School of Engineering and she for Science and Mathematics (now the College of Sciences and Mathematics). The next year, he was elected president of the SGA, and she ended up in his cabinet. Both were also involved in Greek life, he as a member of Phi Gamma Delta and she as a sister in Alpha Gamma Delta. He was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Mortar Board and the Spades. She was in ODK and was the outstanding graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences in 1979.
No surprise, then, that the Stones’ involvement at Auburn has continued decades past their graduations, while he forged a career at Brasfield & Gorrie and she as a pediatrician.
“We’ve kind of always given back a little bit, to the extent that we could,” Jeff says. “We’ve tried to be fairly equal in our contributions back to Auburn – we’ve given to a lot of different things.”
That includes donations to the civil engineering program and the College of Sciences and Mathematics, as well as athletics. They also established scholarships in the names of their three children in the disciplines they studied while at Auburn: one through the Women’s Philanthropy Fund, one in building science and one in the College of Human Sciences.
And Student Affairs has also benefited from the Stones’ generosity, starting with LeaderShape and continuing with Emerge, Auburn’s current undergraduate leadership program.
“Linda and I have always had an interest in making sure that students have a well-rounded experience,” Jeff says. “We believe in a well- rounded experience that’s more than just purely academic or purely athletic or whatever. We believe in opportunities for service and leadership on campus.”
Like most of the Auburn Family, the Stones, who live in Birmingham, also believe in Aubie. In fact, it was during Stone’s term as SGA president that the idea of using Phil Neel’s cartoon character as Auburn’s mascot was born.
That was 40 years ago this year, and now, thanks to a donation from the Stones (and from other Friends of Aubie via a challenge from the couple), a permanent Aubie exhibit will open in the fall in the Student Center to celebrate the mascot’s nine national mascot championships and legacy at Auburn.
It won’t be the end of their gifts to Auburn, Jeff says, but it means a lot to him.
“I’ve always had a place in my heart for Aubie,” says Jeff, who earlier this year was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Auburn Alumni Association. “We wanted to have a nice exhibit in the Student Center where everyone could see it.”
By Alec Harvey
Student Affairs is an integral part of university life and plays a pivotal role in preparing our undergraduate and graduate students for professional and personal successes. We engage students inside and outside the classroom and continuously strive to create intentional learning experience in everything we do.
Last modified: 09/04/2019