Celebrating a decade of service

By Lin Lofley

The 10th anniversary celebration at the Bryan Williams, M.D. Student Center began last summer with the usual events to mark the new academic year. The yearlong party will continue until members of the Class of 2013 are on the way to their chosen careers.

Student Center Anniversary
Rajiv Parmar performs with the Raas All-Stars at the Celebration of Cultures event held recently at the Bryan Williams, M.D. Student Center.

In between, there have been a plethora of events, and the student center staff has handled it all while running the daily operations of the facility.

That’s pretty much the way it was envisioned to work when the Williams Student Center opened in October 2002 on the South Campus. When student organizations want to get something done, they work with the staff in what is arguably the go-to space for students and many more people on campus.

Last August, there was PRE+OP – the Pre-Registration Education Orientation Program, the annual orientation session for incoming first-year students – and an ice cream social for all students, to help everyone get acquainted. 

In mid-February, Multicultural Awareness Week resulted in student center staffers and members of a student-based committee putting in long hours to feed students as part of a weeklong series of cultural lectures. This was all done while preparing for the end-of-week Celebration of Cultures, an international food festival provided by three dozen Dallas-area restaurants, with entertainment put on by students.

That same month brought speakers for Domestic Violence Awareness Week, followed by planning for major events in the works:

  • Match Day, (March 15)
  • The annual United to Serve health fair at T.J. Rusk Middle School (April 20), and;
  • The always-popular The Last Free Meal, a brunch to honor UT Southwestern Medical School graduates on the day of commencement (May 31).

While all those events are occurring, the day-to-day operations of the student center continue: fitness classes, gym operations, and intramural sports.

Suzi Smith, Director of the facility since it opened, assisted in its design and construction. She is in charge of coordinating and executing all the student-led events.  She leads a staff of four full-time employees and 82 student staff, which includes 10 fitness instructors. 

“I wouldn’t trade jobs with anyone on campus,” said Ms. Smith, who worked more than her normal 60 hours or so during Multicultural Awareness Week. “I am truly fortunate to work with amazing students who share and give of themselves in many different ways to make their experiences at UT Southwestern memorable.”

The students appreciate her hard work. During Multicultural Awareness Week, they marked Valentine’s Day with a singing telegram and a rendition of “What Makes You Beautiful,” just to say “thanks.” 

Plans for the 43,000-square-foot Williams Student Center, long a dream of campus leaders, came together in 1999 with a $4 million challenge gift from the late Dallas philanthropist Nancy Hamon that was matched by other UTSW supporters. Mrs. Hamon, who died in 2011, recommended that the building be named to honor Dr. Williams, Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine and Associate Dean Emeritus for Student Affairs. Dr. Williams died in 2003.