Credit: Photo: Addison Geary
Position: Coordinator for the Office of Campus Involvement, Camden
Length of Service: In his current position since 2004; working in Rutgers student activities since 2002
What he does: Wallace’s job plunges him into four roles on the Camden campus. He produces events for the campus’s approximately 3,800 undergraduate and 1,600 graduate students, presenting entertainments from musicians and dancers to political speakers and thought-provoking films. Wallace also serves as liaison to undergraduate student organizations and the student government, guiding groups, such as the Art Students’ League and the Muslim Student Association, through policies and procedures. Wallace also manages the student hang-out known as The Corner, where busy undergraduate and graduate students congregate in the study lounge, enjoy access to wireless Internet and gather around pool tables to chat and relax. The Corner also includes such amenities as video games, television, a meditation room and a new convenience store. Finally, Wallace sits on the campuswide committees that plan and oversee annual mega-events, such as reunion and orientation.
Community builder: Wallace’s most challenging function, however, is as a “community builder” who knits together a diverse population of students, 5,000 of whom commute to campus each day.
“Most of the students have jobs outside school,” Wallace says. “I have to choose niche events that have high appeal to different segments of the student body to keep them on campus after classes.” He also schedules noon-time performances that they can enjoy during lunch.
Master of ceremonies: His immersion in campus life has heightened Wallace’s awareness of the wide array of tastes and cultures he must please to hold successful events. Last month he presented “hip-hop” novelist Adam Mansbach and Jim Donovan, a drummer from the “hippie band” Rustic Root, who delivered a memorable performance followed by a participatory drum circle with students. Wallace knows his market. After graduating from Rutgers-Camden with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2002, he worked in other capacities in student activities before being promoted to his current position. On a budget of $50,000 to $60,000 per semester, he oversees an average of 20 to 30 events. His funds, which come from student activity fees, ebb and flow with enrollment.
Most memorable event: Of all the activities he’s helped plan, Wallace finds one the most memorable: a talk by the filmmaker Michael Moore. “The Student Activities Office put the offer in before “Fahrenheit 9/11” hit the theaters, so you could still get Moore for a reasonable price. By the time he came to campus, everyone was talking about the movie,” he says. “We had to hold the event at the Tweeter Center, a major concert venue near campus, because more than 6,000 people had picked up free tickets.” The aftermath of Moore’s talk tested Wallace’s reputation for fairness. “Some conservative students wanted to present the other side of the issues,” Wallace says. Working with the students who approached him, as well as the Student Affairs Office, Wallace booked the conservative author Ann Coulter as a speaker, just two weeks later. Wallace remembers a tricky security concern of Coulter’s visit. “She had just had a pie thrown in her face when she’d spoken at another school. So I was a little nervous, but everything went smoothly.” Coulter attracted 600 students to the main lounge of the campus center.
His mentor: Wallace credits Dean Allison Wisniewski, director of the Offices of Campus Involvement and Residence Life, with inspiring him to serve the students of the Camden campus. “I first met her when I was 18,” Wallace says. “I used to feel awful if I planned an event and it fell flat, but she taught me simply to do my best and to have fun doing it.” He calls the staff of the campus center a “big family” he looks forward to seeing every day.
Camden neighbor: Wallace creates bonds off-campus as well as on. He recently bought a house in a neighborhood near the university and is fixing it up with the help of friends. He divides his free time between Home Depot and the classroom, where he has returned to pursue a master’s degree in English. Although he longs to visit Ireland, his ancestral homeland, some day, he remains rooted to the campus and the city where he grew from teenager to adult and learned the true meaning of community.