What are the hot trends and issues in Student Centers today? How do you best blend technology, aesthetics, amenities, and a sense of institutional pride into community spaces that cater to the needs of modern-day students? How can intentional student center design lead to better learning and engagement on campus? What are the biggest challenges facing student center professionals today? On this episode of Higher Ed Live, Tony Doody interviews Debra Hammond (Executive Director of the University Student Union at California State University, Northridge), Corbin Smyth (AVC for Student Life at University of Minnesota Duluth), Eve Esch (Director of the Student Centers at the University of Houston ), Laurie Woodward (Director of the Erb Memorial Union at University of Oregon), and Brian Schermer (principal at Workshop Architects) about “Trends In Student Centers” with questions related to sustainability, security, signage, accommodations for students with disabilities, and more.

Please contribute to the conversation by emailing questions before the show to tony@higheredlive.com or by tweeting live during the show using the #higheredlive hashtag. We’ll do our best to incorporate questions from viewers (with attribution) into the live conversation.


Episode Host

Tony Doody

Tony Doody

Tony Doody has over 25 years of practical experience and oversight in senior leadership positions within the Higher Education industry in the areas of Facilities Management, New Student Orientation, Recreation, Parent and Family Programs, Leadership and Training, Marketing and Communications, Adult Learning, and Major Events and Programs. He currently serves as the Director of Student Centers at the University of Delaware. Over the last six years, Tony has presented at over thirty universities and national conferences on topics of innovation, digital leadership, technology, and unconventional leadership. He received the Diamond Honoree Award from the ACPA Foundation, the highest honor of the American College Personnel Association, recognizing transformative contributions to the field (2017) and earned NASPA's 2017 Technology Emerging Practice Award. In addition, Tony has worked over 20 years as a consultant in the areas of executive coaching, leadership development, presentation skills, risk-taking, innovation, social media, conflict resolution, and team cohesiveness. Past clients include J&J, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Vistakon, Navigant, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, United Way, Merrill Lynch, Tumi International, and Aventis Pharmaceuticals.


Debra Hammond

Debra L. Hammond has more than 35 years of experience in higher education and currently serves as the Executive Director of the University Student Union (USU) at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).  The USU is a non-profit organization governed primarily by students.  She recently opened a $60 million Student Recreation Center, a Pride (LGBTQ) Center, a Veterans Resource Center, and a state-of-the-art Oasis Wellness Center.  She also serves as a faculty member in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education for the graduate college counseling/student services program.  She received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Rutgers University and a master’s degree in educational administration from California State University, Los Angeles.

Ms. Hammond is a past president of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) and has presented keynote addresses and educational sessions at a number of professional associations, including the Auxiliary Organizations Association (AOA), Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA), the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the National Association for campus Activities (NACA).

For her body of work, the California State University (CSU) selected Debra from among the CSU’s 23 campuses as its outstanding staff member of 2016. Debra recently received the San Fernando Valley Business Journal’s Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual Women in Business Awards Luncheon for her accomplishments as a woman in business.


Corbin Smyth

As AVC for Student Life, Corbin manages a portfolio that includes self-operated Dining Services, the Ki​rby Student Center, Transportation & Parking Services, and the campus-wide Office of Sustainability. He provides additional oversight for divisional IT systems, coordinates the student services fee allocation process, and advises the student government association. He earned the Ed.D. from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a focus on the intersection of facility and community. And fun fact: Corbin serves UMD as the campus governance parliamentarian.

A life-long community builder, Corbin has served professional roles with several college campuses including small, regional, and comprehensive universities. His professional and research interests include student leadership development, managing effective auxiliary operations, and creating spaces and places that matter. On the personal side, Corbin spends time supporting the growth and development of local youth sports including baseball, lacrosse, mountain biking, and freestyle skiing.


Brian Schermer

Brian Schermer, PhD is an architect and researcher who focuses on student life settings. As a principal at Workshop Architects, he has worked on projects for the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Brian is also an associate professor of architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he teaches architectural programming, building evaluation, research methods, building design, and law and practice. His current research focuses on physical place and campus community, and the relationship between organizational and architectural change. His “campus capital” mapping research was awarded a 2017 Certificate of Research Excellence by the Environmental Design Research Association. In collaboration with Workshop Architects, he received the National Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) award for Creative Integration in Practice and the Academy in 2011. He is co-author of Law and Practice for Architects, and co-edited Building Bridges, Blurring Boundaries: The Milwaukee School of Environment-Behavior Studies.


Laurie Woodward

Laurie Woodward is the director of the Erb Memorial Union, and has served in that role for five years.  She recently oversaw a $98 million renovation and new construction of the EMU and has overall responsible for the facilities, administration and finances, and the programs and services offered through the student union.  Laurie holds a master’s degree from Western Illinois University, and a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida. Her dissertation and research interests include; the social contract between higher education and society and leadership development for college students.  Laurie’s previous teaching experience includes courses in Higher Education Administration, Public Finance and Leadership Development.


Eve Esch

Eve Esch has been serving as Director of the Student Centers at the University of Houston for 2 years, where she leads a team responsible for 3 facilities that see over 4 million visitors annually; house 2 Games rooms and hosted over 18,000 events last year.  Since her arrival, she’s created a Sustainability Committee and an Art Board to help encourage those initiatives in the Student Centers and is helping get a Poetry Slam student organization established on campus.

Eve grew up in Indiana and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations and Health & Kinesiology studies from Purdue University. She earned her Master’s degree in Higher Education & Student Affairs from The Ohio State University. Being elected Vice President of the Council of Graduate Students earned Eve her first office in the Ohio Union at Ohio State, where she worked for 16 years prior to heading South.

Eve enjoys spending time with her family (husband, 2 daughters & 2 dogs) and teaches Group Cycling once a week at the Campus Recreation center. Her other past time is volunteering with ACUI, where she most recently served on the Conference Planning team for the 2018 conference in Anaheim, CA.