For contributions made to promote diversity among professionals in the field of student union management, the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) has honored Carole Desgroppes, manager of programs, marketing and assessments for the Loker Student Union (LSU) at California State University, Dominguez Hills, with the Revis A. Cox Memorial Scholarship Award. The award was presented during the ACUI annual conference held in St. Louis in March.
Desgroppes, a native of France, has revised the ACUI’s Community of Practice (COMP) website with pertinent information related to multiculturalism to help students and professionals in the field, facilitated a webinar on issues of professional diversity, and participated in the planning of meetings and events at annual ACUI conferences, to name a few contributions.
She has been an active member of ACUI since 1998, first serving on a leadership team while a student assistant for CSU Northridge’s student union and since November as the diversity and inclusivity coordinator for region 15, which covers California, Nevada, Hawaii, territory of Guam, and Australia. She has belonged to the COMP for Multi-Ethnic Professionals and Allies throughout her professional 10-year career.
“I wanted to continue my professional development,” Desgroppes said. “ACUI has so many networking opportunities throughout the United States. So, if I need something …I’ll contact my colleagues on the west coast for instance, and we bounce ideas back and forth. It’s really helpful, because there’s somebody out there that’s done it before.”
She went on to say that working with colleagues at other campuses is especially helpful when it comes to new technology such as social media, because what others in the widespread network are experiencing collectively can reveal major trends as they are developing.
Since 1998, Desgroppes has been a presenter at nearly every national ACUI conference, including last year’s where she presented best practices for hosting an Iron Chef competition. This month she will host an online webinar for ACUI members worldwide to discuss services and activities for students who are veterans.
Desgroppes is also concerned about the development of students who serve as assistants.
“My mentor Debra Hammond, the executive director of the student union at CSU Northridge, did the same for me,” she said.
Each year LSU sends five to eight of its student assistants to the student-based ACUI regional conferences held in the fall.
“They can see all the other students who do the same job as they do,” Desgroppes said. “They really realize that, ‘Oh, I’m really doing a job, not just coming here getting a paycheck.’”
On the job, Desgroppes delegates real projects to student assistants such as web designer Alfonso Lomeli, a junior majoring in digital media arts with a music technology option, and graphic designers Yusef Andrews, a senior majoring in music education, and senior art design major Alejandro Salvatierra. They create promotional materials for Toro Productions events (there are more than 100 each year) as well as those sponsored by Loker Student Union such as Welcome Week, Toro Days, and Unity Fest.
“It’s good for the students because they can create their portfolio, get hands-on experience. It’s like a laboratory. When they leave college they have their degree and their portfolio,” Desgroppes said. “We’re trying to teach our student assistants skills and things that will help them when they graduate.”
As well as overseeing LSU sponsored events, such as the Toro Iron Chef competition and the 20th anniversary celebration, which featured a record-number crowd that came to see guest speaker Cornell West, Desgroppes also serves on the President’s Student Leadership and Service Awards committee.
It was due in part to her involvement with ACUI that Desgroppes came to CSU Dominguez Hills. Through the organization’s job listing, she discovered the university was accepting applications for the LSU program coordinator position. She got the job and began her career at the university in 2007–just one week before the newly remodeled LSU was opened.
“At the time, I had done so much at Northridge that, to me, in order to move further I needed some more challenges,” she recalled of making the transition to CSU Dominguez Hills. “One of the good things I learned here, is you wear different hats… I like doing different things.”
However, Desgroppes’ real journey began earlier and from much further away. As a youngster in Evry, France, she had visions of coming to America someday. Her dream came true when she was in high school.
“Of course I saw the life as someone on vacation as a foreign exchange student, so everything was great,” she said of that first trip. “When I came back and started working and going to college; it was different. But there’s still great opportunity.”
In 1994 with an associate’s degree from France, she returned to the States on an international visa. A year later she applied and was accepted to CSU Northridge, where she earned a bachelor’s in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing in 2000, and a Masters of Public Administration in 2007.
A student needing to support herself, and as an international student who was only allowed to work on campus, she took a job working as an information desk attendant at that Northridge’s student union. She went on to work in several positions and worked closely with the executive director before making the move to CSU Dominguez Hills.
“Working at Northridge taught me the field and that’s when I saw that I could work in the student union field. It really opened my eyes to all the possibilities and I really enjoyed working with students. I decided this is what I want to do.” Desgroppes recalled. “Since 1998 I really haven’t left the student union.”
But with a green card that she received in 2004 about to expire, she’s recently had to make a decision whether to return to France or remain in America. This year, the Altadena resident, who lives with her 10-year-old bilingual daughter (a dual French/U.S. citizen), will apply for U.S. citizenship.
“When I look back at things, I feel proud that I was able to make it to the United States, get a degree, build a career and have been recognized,” Desgroppes said of the Revis A. Cox Memorial Scholarship Award.