Kansas Union, Burge Union, DeBruce Center
  • Home
  • "I Never Even Went to Camp" - Memories at the Union


The KU Memorial Union has reopened the Kansas Union, the Burge Union, and the DeBruce Center. Click here to learn more about our enhanced cleaning & safety measures, fall building hours, and other important updates. 

"I Never Even Went to Camp" - Memories at the Union

Thursday, April 9, 2020

I Never Even Went to Camp

Growing up, I guess I lived a slightly different teenaged life in that I didn’t want to get away from my parents.  I was a rule-follower, and, mostly (not entirely), my parents let me do the things I wanted.  I didn’t look at college as an opportunity to “get my freedom.”

So, I was distraught when I suddenly found myself living in a tiny dorm room, with a roommate I just met, an hour away from home (it seemed like I was halfway around the globe), without my parents, without my high school boyfriend, with stupid calling cards to make long distance calls, no widespread use of the Internet (I got my first email address when I came to KU; I didn’t have a personal computer, and my parents certainly didn’t have a computer at home.), and having to make use of a community bathroom for the whole dorm floor.

And, everyone just kept saying, “you’ll find your niche.”

During that first week of college, there were a lot of activities happening on campus.  We were encouraged to attend those events, many of which were coordinated by something called Student Union Activities.  One of those events was at the Lied Center.  It was a movie night where we gathered to watch Good Will Hunting.  I remember next to nothing about the movie, but I clearly remember this group of people called “coordinators” from Student Union Activities who introduced themselves and the committee which they led.  One coordinator said he led the Live Music Committee.

And, my niche was found. 

Truthfully, there’s two reasons I chose to attend KU.  I became a fan of KU’s men’s basketball team circa 1991, and I really liked the music scene in Lawrence.  I made the decision with my heart and my gut (with no consideration for my family’s or my own pocketbook as I wasn’t a Kansas resident), and I never regretted it because of that.  So, when I heard the words “Live Music Committee,” I was in.  I probably had my application submitted within 24 hours of that movie night, and I immediately joined the committee as soon as I got the call from the coordinator sharing a meeting time with me.

And, my niche grew.

When I was at KU, KJHK was initially within the School of Journalism.  Frankly, I chose journalism as my major simply because I thought I could then integrate KJHK into my “formal” education.  As my involvement with the Live Music Committee at SUA grew, I expanded my work to KJHK.  I got my first radio show during my second semester.  I did the 3:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. shift at The Shack, and I loved it.

I became the Live Music Coordinator as a sophomore amongst a bunch of upperclassmen.  I worked with agents to book concerts.  I booked a band named Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits in the Jaybowl.  The Jaybowl!  When it was coming down to the wire for a headline act at Day On The Hill, I convinced The Urge’s management to cancel another show and play Day On The Hill instead.  And, the day we set-up for Day On The Hill, was probably one of the best days of my life.  I printed all my photos from the day and created my own photo album (pictured). 

Remember, this was 2000.  And, when a staff member from the Union said that in his 13-years of working for the Union, he had never seen a Day On The Hill as well organized as mine, I was honored.

My experiences with the Union went on and on.  I had a job as a student building manager.  I held numerous positions with SUA.  I was one of the students who got to “interview” new Union director candidates.  I twice tried to be the president of SUA.  Once, I retracted my application, and once, someone with more experience with Student Senate than SUA was given the job.

This wouldn’t be the last time in my life where I was passed-on for a top-leadership role when I thought I was the candidate who had put in the time.  And, both times, the role was given to a man.  I bring that up not as a commentary on the leadership of either of those men.  Instead, I mention that because this was a very “real-world” experience that informed how I would handle the situation in my future.  And, the Union gave me that experience no matter how much I didn’t want it.

I went on to leadership roles at KJHK, and I watched with deep gratitude when I knew KJHK was going to be safe at the Union after its future in the School of Journalism was ended.

Just as they told us not to do, I went home for a high school football game during one of the first weekends after moving to Lawrence.  But, once I got involved with the Union, I found my home away from home.  I stayed in Lawrence for summer after summer because of my roles with the Union.  I’d tell you today that my most impactful college experiences happened outside of the classroom, and so many of those were because the Union offered me paid positions, scholarship positions, and opportunities that would give me work environment experience that helped create the professional me.

And, I never even went to camp.

Marie Dispenza

Student Union Activities

KJHK 90.7fm


KU Today