New interim director of MU focused on bettering student life


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Richard Reynolds interned at a student union at TCU in college and was hooked. He has worked to keep Iowa State’s Memorial Union serving students and the community for more than 10 years as the director of the MU.

Mollie Shultz

Solid was the one word that Martino Harmon used to describe Corey Williamson, the new interim director of the Memorial Union.

Harmon, the newly appointed senior vice president for Student Affairs, said Williamson was the right man for the position.

“He’s continuing and providing leadership on a higher level,” Harmon said. “We’re very fortunate that we had him as a really strong associate director.”

Williamson, who attended graduate school at Kansas State and previously worked at the University of Akron and the University of Nevada, Reno, came to Iowa State in November 2012. He was named the associate director of the Memorial Union and is now the interim director of the Memorial Union after the former director retired at the end of the fall semester.

Richard Reynolds, who is the former director, was beloved by many of his co-workers. He served as a mentor to Williamson and helped him learn how to handle the stresses of running one of the main components of Iowa State’s campus.

Williamson said Reynolds’ retirement came as a surprise to him, but he was humbled that he was put into the position as interim director.

“He was very encouraging,” Williamson said. “He had 30 years of experience, and I spent every moment working with him soaking up that experience. He was very articulate to the point where I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready for what he’s been doing.’”

Williamson was also quick to point out that he would have never had this opportunity if not for the great team environment he said he works in.

“I think they’re some of the best professionals I’ve ever worked with,” Williamson said. “I know for a fact that I would not be successful in my role as interim director without the support of the staff.”

Along with various other aspects around campus, Williamson has played an important role in the feasibility study the university has been conducting.

The study is examining how Iowa State can maximize the space available in the Memorial Union. The Memorial Union does not provide adequate space for dining, studying or lounging, and university officials, including Williamson, are working to resolve the issue.

The study is also examining the option of repurposing the hotel in the Memorial Union and possibly adding an addition to help accommodate the 40-percent population growth that has occurred during the last 10 years, Williamson said.

Williamson said the feasibility study has been the most rewarding and challenging project that he has taken on during his time at the university and now in his new position.

“[It] requires collaboration from multiple entities,” Williamson said, adding that although the project has been challenging, he values the fact that the Memorial Union and the ISU administration serve campus to the best of their ability.

“What I enjoy most about being part of the union is the focus on service,” he said. “We say, ‘What do you need?’ and we try to provide it.”

At a time when Iowa State is going through several leadership changes in various departments around campus, Harmon said it has been comforting having someone such as Williamson who is hardworking and ready for a difficult job.

“When he speaks, you know that he’s definitely saying the right things, and he knows what he’s talking about,” Harmon said. “He’s very thoughtful, and when he has something to say, you know it’s going to be something solid.”

Williamson’s position will be permanently filled at some point, but the university is not sure yet as to when, Harmon said. The search will be national in an attempt to find someone who can problem solve and handle the growing student population.

When asked if he was going to pursue the position when it officially became open to the public, Williamson said he was not completely sure but said he is considering it because of the joy and the feelings of home he has found both in his previous position and as the new interim director.

“I consider myself an Iowa Stater,” he said. “I feel like I’ve found home here at Iowa State, so regardless of the position, I feel like Iowa State is home, and right now, it is my desire to serve campus in any way I can.”