Terrace Views

Making Childhood Memories and Professional Strides at the Terrace

Abby Synnes’ connection to the Wisconsin Union began long before she joined us at the Wisconsin Union in 2021 as a communications associate while attending the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She will graduate in May 2023 having written more than 50 blog stories, crafted many press releases and run multiple communications efforts.

A Lifelong Connection

Abby grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and she and her family have frequented our outdoor dining and destination space, called the Memorial Union Terrace, since Abby was a child. The space has been a backdrop for memories of enjoying brats, ice cream made right on campus and free film showings.

Her connection to the Union goes even further than that; her grandfather worked at the Wisconsin Union as an associate director for more than 30 years, AND her parents met while working at Memorial Union as college students.

“Deep down, I always knew that I wanted to follow in their footsteps of working at the Union as a student employee because of all the happy memories that the Union has created for me and my family,” Abby said. “When I saw the job posting for communications associate during my sophomore year, it felt like fate.”

 We think so, too.

Gifted Storyteller and Editor

Abby came to the Wisconsin Union team with writing experience with an online magazine and in writing courses, alongside the desire to apply her professional and academic experiences to real-world communications situations at the Wisconsin Union.

Her role has included writing for our blogs, newsletters and social media accounts, as well as writing press materials and running her own communications campaigns.

We quickly learned that she can put any story interviewee at ease with her thoughtful questions and genuine desire to learn about every person’s story.

“Everyone who works at the Union has their own unique story about how they got here and why they stayed, and I feel grateful to play a role in sharing these stories with a larger audience,” Abby said.

And when it comes to translating interviews and ideas into stories, Abby continues to awe and amaze with her ability to sort a Rubik’s Cube of interview responses, ideas, calls-to-action, history and facts into stories that flow seamlessly through ideas and sometimes centuries to tell the stories of the Union’s people, places and purpose.

We are not the first people to notice her gift for writing. Abby recalls that her English teacher from her first year of high school wrote in her yearbook, “Send me a copy of your first book when you get published.”

“While I’m not a published novelist – yet! – she made me believe in myself and my writing abilities,” Abby said. “I want to thank her, and every English instructor I’ve had since, for those words of kindness that made me realize that becoming a writer wasn’t merely a fantastical dream, but an attainable goal.”

We here at the Union want to thank them, too – we do not want to imagine not having had the pleasure of working alongside Abby and reading her stories.

Some of our favorite pieces of hers include Following in the Footsteps of Family: Family Connections at the Wisconsin Union, Celebrating a Legendary Union Leader: Ted Crabb Turns 90!, and A Terrace Season Not Taken for Granted: Staff Perspectives on the New Normal.

While many people’s excitement for work can wane as time passes, Abby’s only has grown as she gained new skills and applied them to new challenges. With each story she has told, her aptitude has grown alongside her ability to nimbly navigate the storytelling process from ideation to completion. Today, by the time her stories reach the editing process, there is simply nothing to edit; they are, in a word, perfect, from the weaving of the story to the punctuation and grammar. And they are done ahead of schedule.

“I’ve learned that writing is one of the most beautiful, yet paralyzing, things that you can choose to do,” Abby said about what she learned about writing during her role. “Your own doubts can hold you back and freeze your fingers above the keyboard, waiting for the ‘perfect’ words to come to you, but my advice to aspiring writers is, simply, to write. Break through the mental blocks and put your thoughts onto the page. Your initial draft doesn’t have to be great or even good; revision is your best friend, and you’ll surprise yourself with what your imagination can think up. Revising has become my favorite part of the writing process because it feels like doing a jigsaw puzzle, moving sentences and paragraphs around until the story feels right.”

Her stories have been read more than 25,000 times, and subscribers to our newsletter Terrace Views clicked through to read her stories more than 9,000 times. Her stories frequently rank as the most or second most popular stories in our newsletters.

When it came time to lead in her role, Abby showed no hesitation to apply all that she learned to tell the Union’s story and surpass goals. She approaches each new challenge with well-thought-out questions, balancing independent work with asking for clarification when needed.

Her communications strategy efforts helped lead to a sold-out season of our wintertime dining and music experience, called the Tudor Holiday Dinner Concert, and one of the most successful years of our annual outdoor requirement sale, called the Hoofer Ski and Snowboard Resale.

She also represented the Wisconsin Union when she spoke with local television station NBC15 live to talk about the opening of the Memorial Union Terrace: nbc15.com/2023/04/12/iconic-sunburst-chairs-return-memorial-union-terrace/.

The Next Chapter

With such an amazing human being and star student team member from whom to ask advice, here is her advice to her younger self and to those beginning their professional and scholastic journeys: “Everything will work itself out, even if it doesn’t happen in the way that you imagined it would. If you had told younger me that my freshman year of college would be cut short by a terrifying pandemic that completely changed the world as we know it, I would have been devastated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still devastated, but I also know that living through the pandemic has made me more resilient. I’m about to graduate from an amazing university with two degrees, a group of lifelong friends, dozens of published articles and a goal for the future … I’d like to think that high school me would be proud to see where I am now.”

We count ourselves at the Wisconsin Union lucky to know Abby, to have had the opportunity to have our stories be brought to life with her storytelling and communications expertise, and to have worked alongside her.

Abby is open to many chapters in the never-ending choose-your-own-adventure book of life. From roles in editing to communications and locations from the west to the east coast, she is looking forward to what comes next. Without question, no matter where she goes next in life, a book by Abby Synnes will someday come to fruition.

“It’s always been on my bucket list to publish my own book, but I think I need some life experience to serve as inspiration first!” Abby said.

We can’t wait to read it, and we’re beyond honored to have played a role within the pages of her life’s story.


The Wisconsin Union has more than 1,800 student team members and grows its student employee team year-round. Student employees enjoy a 30% discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages at Union dining locations, flexible scheduling, and at least $15/hour. To learn about available positions, visit union.wisc.edu/jobs.

Author: Shauna Breneman

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