Terrace Views

Following in the Footsteps of Family: Family Connections at the Wisconsin Union

Family fun on the Terrace. Photo by Andy Manis.

As a third-generation Wisconsin Union employee, I practically bleed Allis Chalmers orange, sunshine yellow and John Deere green. My grandfather worked at Memorial Union for almost four decades, first as a student and later as associate director, and my parents met working at Memorial Union as student employees. Because of my family history, it’s no surprise that many of my happiest childhood memories include the Wisconsin Union: watching Fourth of July fireworks from the top of the Upper Sunset Deck, jumping around at Badger Bash, devouring dripping ice cream cones from the comfort of a sunburst Terrace chair…the list goes on and on. 

When I decided to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I knew that I wanted to keep up the family tradition and apply for a job at the Wisconsin Union. After starting my position, I quickly learned that all the praise I’d heard from my family over the years was no fluke; in fact, working at the Union has been one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences I’ve had during my college years.

As special as my story is, connections at the Union are by no means exclusive to me and my family. Since the doors of Memorial Union and Union South first opened in 1928 and 1971, respectively, countless employees have followed in the footsteps of their family members or have met their forever friends and partners while working at the Union. I was lucky enough to speak with three pairs of related Wisconsin Union employees who made memories for a lifetime while working together. Read on to learn why the Union is the best place to work, from the perspectives of these six fabulous individuals.

Princess and Victor Dobbins

Colorful Terrace chairs in the summer sun. Photo by Kayla Nelson.

Eight months ago, Princess Dobbins applied for a custodial job at Memorial Union after hearing her father, Victor, gush about the Union’s overwhelmingly positive work environment. Victor has worked at Union South for more than 10 years as part of the set-up team, a position in which he organizes the furniture in meeting rooms for scheduled events and refreshes the room afterwards. Intrigued by her father’s glowing reviews about Union work culture, Princess couldn’t wait to meet new people as she completed her custodial duties.

“My favorite task is greeting students at the door who come to Memorial Union for early study sessions,” Princess said. “I also love setting up the Terrace chairs in the morning as the sun rises over Lake Mendota.”

While Princess and Victor work in different departments and often in different buildings, they both enjoy hearing reports about each other’s kindness, teamwork and work ethic from the eyes of their coworkers.

“Our favorite parts about working at the Union are the community, diversity, acknowledgment and activities,” Princess said. 

Ben and Sofia Clark

Ben and Sofia Clark

Assistant Human Resources Director Ben Clark applied to work at the Union for two reasons: the first was because he thought it would be a good place to work, and the second was more sentimental—he met his now-wife, Penny, at Memorial Union after the first home football game of their freshman year of college, 27 years ago.

Fond memories of the Union also inspired Ben’s daughter, Sofia, to apply for a student catering assistant position in 2022. Growing up, Sofia spent many summers at the Terrace with her family, attending camps during the week and watching music performances on the weekends. Working in the lighthearted atmosphere she had loved so much as a kid seemed like a natural fit for her as a college student.

“I enjoy working for an organization that contributes to the world and has such an amazing mission,” Ben said. “When Sofia worked here, she enjoyed the fun environment and appreciated that her supervisors knew how to navigate each student’s scheduling needs.”

Tim and Quinn Borchert

When Quinn Borchert looked for a summer job after her freshman year of college, her father, Human Resources Director Tim Borchert, suggested the Wisconsin Union. The opportunity to carpool to work with her dad and work in such a unique location drew her in, and Quinn got a job working custodial shifts in the mornings and Brat Stand shifts in the afternoons as a student employee.

Tim and Quinn Borchert

Unlike Princess and Victor and Ben and Sofia, whose daily schedules didn’t overlap during their joint time at the Union, Quinn and Tim saw each other quite a bit during the summer of 2019. 

“My dad gets his steps in every day, so I’d often catch him walking when I was cleaning or picking up trays at the Brat Stand,” Quinn said. “We also took lunch breaks at the same time, so I got to eat and catch up with him almost every day. My dad loves his job, and seeing him during his workday was a cool insight into his life that I wouldn’t have gotten to experience without working at the Union.”

Some of Quinn’s favorite parts about working at the Union included the happy atmosphere and coworker connections. She also experienced a peaceful fulfillment from picking up litter at the Terrace during early morning shifts, doing her part to make the Union, and the lakefront as a whole, a better and cleaner place.

As a final reflection on her months at the Union, Quinn emphasized the amazing friendships she made during her time there.

“Kathleen, if you’re reading this, let’s catch up over Granny Smith apples soon,” Quinn said.

These are just three examples of life-changing experiences that have taken place at the Wisconsin Union. Ask any Union employee, past or current, about their work experience, and they’ll likely have a meaningful memory (or 20) to share. 

In addition to meeting some of the most wonderful coworkers imaginable, other benefits of working at the Wisconsin Union include flexible scheduling, convenient locations, a student starting wage of $15/hour, and discounts on food and beverages at Union dining locations. Click here to learn more about working at the Union and to start making memories for a lifetime.

Author: Abby Synnes

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