NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Within days of stepping into the director of Auxiliary Services role at Stephen F. Austin State University on Aug. 19, Carrie Charley found herself at community assistant training. This training helps prepare SFA student advisors to assist residents living in on-campus halls.
“All the CAs were yelling out their hall names, chants and cheers, and they’d been together only two days, and it all came back to me,” Charley said, remembering her years as a resident assistant, assistant hall director and graduate hall director at Ohio University. “I jumped up and yelled out the chant and cheer from my hall at OU, and they gave me a perplexed look. I said, ‘I was you when I was in college!’”
Charley earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in higher education administration and leadership while working with residents and developing strong crisis management skills at Ohio University. “That’s where I learned the value of community living,” she said. “And I really got to the heart of what I love to do — support student goals and success.”
In her new role, Charley manages Residence Life and Auxiliary Services, including the student center; Testing Services, a new addition to this position; the Graphics Shop; ID Card Services; the SFA Post Office; University Printing Services; and contract services for banking, Accent Foods vending, Aramark Dining Services and the Barnes & Noble Bookstore.
The opportunity to oversee housing and Residence Life prompted Charley to apply for the position during her 11th year as director of food and retail at The University of Texas at Dallas.
“I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to return to my roots in student development,” she said. “And the fact that this position reports up through Student Affairs is one of the main reasons I applied. Being aligned was very important to me.”
The motto “Students First, Always” flows through Charley’s work every day. “I welcome any and every opportunity to talk with students,” she said.
Her student advisory group on food service meets every other week, and she’s creating a student advisory group for the Barnes & Noble Bookstore. She’s also mindful of the student employees in her area.
“Among Residence Life, dining, the student center and the proctors in the testing center, to name a few, we employ a lot of students in Auxiliary Services,” Charley said. “I want to make sure we not only provide competitive experiences and wages but also build on their classroom experience, through service, mentorship and, hopefully, academic retention.”
SFA students are helping Charley plan the student center dining hall renovation, which is scheduled to begin in April and be completed by the start of the fall 2020 semester. Brainstorming with students has generated ideas ranging from big aquariums to food preparation transparency.
“We want to bring the kitchen to the forefront so students can see their meals being prepared,” Charley said. “They can see that their food is fresh and made to order. Health and safety are our foremost concerns.”
Students also want to see more light and a variety of seating options in the dining hall, as well as enjoy an outside eating area. “We have great potential for a patio that’s golf cart parking right now. We’ll find a new place for those golf carts so they don’t block our piney woods view,” she said.
Charley also is working with students to create SFA’s first esports arena in the vacant space to the left of the information desk in the student center. Knowing that UT Dallas had a varsity esports team, students and staff members from Campus Recreation approached her with the idea to help establish a space for an intramural team.
“Campus Recreation, Auxiliary Services and Information Technology are committing resources toward the arena, so we hope to have at least six pods in operation by the end of the year,” she said.
Outside the student center, Charley is refining plans for the Lumberjack Crossing residence hall, which will look similar to Lumberjack Landing. “However, some of the fixtures and furnishings, and some of the common space will address changes in study habits and the increase in group collaboration,” she said.
Though a new dining hall on East College Street is “a little down the road,” Charley said she’s excited about the direction of the dining program and the continued partnership with Aramark.
“Our students are very different than they were 30 years ago when Aramark became our partner — when we moved from a self-operated to a contracted service. Because of that, we’re hiring a dining consultant to help us examine our dining program from top to bottom — someone from the outside who will work with our students and focus groups to determine what our needs will be for the next 30 years.”
Faculty and staff are important customers, too, Charley said, and she wants their continued feedback. “They deserve a positive campus experience as much as our students do. They need to see the value in shopping and eating on campus, getting involved with the SFA residential program through residential learning communities and mentoring, and attending programs and events.”
Charley said she was surprised to learn that SFA doesn’t have a formalized staff council. “I think there is an opportunity there for more involvement and investment in each other.”
She believes the foundation for this involvement and investment is already solid at SFA. “Everyone here has time for each other,” Charley said. “I’ve seen so many examples of that already from my colleagues. I want people to know I’m here, too.”
She’s opened the doors to the student center administration suite of offices to create a more welcoming atmosphere for students, faculty and staff. “When those doors open up, people know we are here to answer questions about meal plans, room scheduling and student center operations.”
Charley is uniquely qualified for her role as director of Auxiliary Services because she is one of only 123 holders of the Certified Auxiliary Services Professional designation administered by the National Association of College Auxiliary Services in the U.S. and Canada.
CASP is the only benchmark certification that measures the needed competencies of college and university executives who oversee multiple auxiliary services. These include multitasking, foresight and problem-solving as they relate to business operations and service design.
Charley also is uniquely qualified to be a proud citizen of Nacogdoches. She grew up in the first settlement in the Northwest Territory, Marrietta, Ohio. It was settled in 1788, almost a decade after Antonio Gil Y’Barbo established Nacogdoches, the first town in Texas.
To relax, Charley and her husband, Brett, hike with their two rescue border collies, Gus and Rigby. They also enjoy playing disc golf, mountain biking and “just being able to see stars again.”