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Thinking Forward Together: Interview with the Union Deputy Director

What is the Wisconsin Union? Yes, we may be incredible buildings like the iconic Memorial Union and innovative Union South. But, we’re far more than brick and mortar. We are people, community and relationships. We are the heart and soul of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As we come to the end of renovation projects at both of our major locations, we, at the Union, are taking time to think about who we are, how we contribute to the campus community and who we should be in the future. Wisconsin Union Deputy Director Susan Dibbell recently took time to talk about this process, known as Thinking Forward Together.

What is Thinking Forward Together?
Thinking Forward Together is the Wisconsin Union’s strategic thinking process. It’s about looking to the Union’s future and thinking about how we can continue to make a positive impact on our community.

What are the goals of Thinking Forward Together?
We, at the Wisconsin Union, are here for a bigger purpose; we’re here to make a difference. This process is helping remind us of that. It’s also helping us thinking about how we meet the needs of our team and community in serving this bigger purpose. As we get ready to open the entire Memorial Union in the fall, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to have these conversations.

Who is leading the Thinking Forward Together effort?
Representatives from across the Wisconsin Union’s many areas, including marketing, programming, dining and facilities, make up what we call the “steward team”. The team is dedicated to collecting input from stakeholders, including planning events to collect thoughts and feedback from Union members and staff members.

How is the feedback collection process going so far?
We’ve been in touch with more than 3,500 people. We’ve collected feedback through in-person interactive sessions with Wisconsin Union employees; University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty, staff, and students; Wisconsin Union Association board members, and Union members. We’ve also held an open town hall meeting and met with our partners.

Where is the Wisconsin Union today in Thinking Forward Together?
From our conversations with more than 3,500 people, we have identified five strengths of the Wisconsin Union, including locations, events and services, trust in students, community passion, and committed and knowledgeable staff. Now, we’re going out and testing these strengths. Within each of these strengths are opportunities. We are currently sharing our findings with the community. We’re also asking each area within the Union to think about area-specific opportunities. Team members will soon “test drive” their ideas and document what worked and what doesn’t. We will publish a final plan in the fall.

Can people still contribute to Thinking Forward Together?
Absolutely. This is an ongoing process, and we are still open to ideas. The best way to give us feedback is to go to union.wisc.edu/thinkingforwardtogether and fill out the survey on the page.

Author: Shauna Breneman

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