Madison Union annually becomes the Disneyworld of JMU during its open house, minus the crowds and long lines. This year’s, held on September 20, was filled with a variety of finger-foods, giveaways, music, and more. Students excitedly explored each floor, some exclaiming “are these free,” or grabbing food and sitting with their friends in areas like the Airport Lounge on the 4th floor loft.
As they ate and snagged all the free things they could hold, people gained valuable knowledge about Madison Union. Like many students, Alison Denne, a sophomore communications major, said, “I don’t really come here a lot so I don’t really know much about it.”
Students passed by each organization, picking up flyers and grazing on the finger-foods. Many talked excitedly with members over their mac n’ cheese bites and paw brownies. Attendees took advantage of the chance to learn more about Madison Union as they were fed their free lunches.
“Each of the separate entities plans their own activities and free giveaways,” Dave Barnes, Director of Administration and Finance, explained. “We just add our prizes and giveaways to make it one big fun, collaborative thing.”
Collaboration efforts were apparent throughout the building, even in TDU, a floor without any student organization offices. The fun kept going down there with a talented, as usual, indie-rock duo called Illiterate Light playing as people colored and enjoyed the music. And even though dining places like Auntie Anne’s usually separate themselves from school events, they chose to hand out different free samples, including their seasonal pumpkin spice nuggets.
As attendees of the open house walked upstairs to the second floor, the smell of more free food and sounds of socializing and an EDM DJ wafted towards them. Popcorn, chip clips, and stylin’ Madison Union fanny-packs were handed out outside the Technology & Design office, and the smell of soft pretzels and mini corndogs drew people into the Center for Multicultural Student Services. Once everyone stuffed the headphones, water bottles, flyers, and Hispanic Heritage Month calendars into their bags, they headed over to the picture-perfect nachos, which were the favorite of many people like freshman communications major Anna Connole, in MU 256. There they also found coloring stations serenaded by the DJ, senior English major Michael Khalifeh.
Even Commonwealth One got in on the action with their own raffle, separate from the one found at each station for a JMU hat or sweatshirt. They also enticed students with their 25th Anniversary cake, cupcakes, and a wheel to spin for a chance to win bags, sunglasses, Starbucks gift cards, football-shaped stress balls, highlighters, pens, hand sanitizers, and candy. The best part, according to several students, was the exchange of liking their JMU branch on Facebook for a T-shirt with a purple heart or oval on the front. Amanda Christian, freshman communications major, commented with many others, “I like the free shirt by the bank.”
Although no other T-shirts were being given away, the third floor was filled with even more food, giveaways, and entertainment. Cheese, juice, and other drinks sat near the entrance of the third floor along with body airbrushing and a guitarist on the loft stairs. Denne came to the open house after remembering last year’s and immediately went to the airbrushing station. “I like that you guys put this on every year,” she said. As far as the musician, everyone in the vicinity enjoyed sophomore computer science major Nic Maoury’s style and clapped for him on occasion. “I like the entertainment,” freshman biology major Emily Thompson commented, referring to Nic.
On this floor, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Government Association, Dux Leadership Center, and Student Activities & Involvement, primarily University Program Board, enticed students with a variety of food and swag so they could teach them about their organizations. FSL gave out “Greek Life” buttons and fed visitors fruits and fresh mac n’ cheese bites. While Student Activities & Involvement set out veggies and favorited crab dip, the Dux Leadership Center went for sweeter foods like rice krispies and classic paw brownies. SGA gave out cups, pens, and stickers as members “spread the word” with casual conversation and a tri-fold info board. According to John Carr, senior accounting major and parliament chair of SGA, the application process had been going well, especially with help from the open house. In addition to this, Carr also said, “[The Madison Union Open House] has provided me with a ton of personal and professional growth opportunities.”
The open house was beneficial to all students who attended in this way and, of course, in learning about what Madison Union does and can do for them. “I think this is a great event,” Thompson said. “There’s a lot to offer here.”
Barnes expressed hopes that these students would return in the future to use some of the available resources or join one of the organizations. As he said, it is important for students to know what goes on in Madison Union, especially “freshmen for sure, because they’re still trying to find their way to the post office.”
Students walked out with full stomachs and pockets, refreshed after an entertaining and valuable break. Liam Brennan, junior computer science major, summed up most attendees’ thoughts when he said, “I just came here for like ten minutes before my next class—and then there was a DJ, and food, and I was like what?!”