Student life has always been a natural interest for the Carolina Union’s new executive director, Alexandra Marchesano. From her first days as an undergraduate at Wagner College in New York, Marchesano immersed herself in campus activities and involvement opportunities.
“I was very involved as a student,” Marchesano said. “I was president of student government, I was and still am a member of a sorority, and I think I chaired every committee possible on campus.”
For Marchesano, who on September 16th began her tenure as the fifth director in the Union’s history, this early dedication to student life and penchant for leadership positions foreshadowed her eventual career, although it took her a little time to discover that this was her path.
She spent a year after college working in the insurance industry, but soon decided it was time to return to school to pursue a master’s degree in higher education. She attended St. John’s University’s Student Development Practice in Higher Education, where she realized that student involvement could become her life’s work.
“I went to graduate school and I knew I wanted to work in higher education, but I didn’t know you could get paid to do this sort of thing, to help students in this way,” she said. “The people I worked with really encouraged me to go for it, and I took them up on it and here I am.”
Marchesano’s career has taken her from serving as Advisor for Student Programming at the College of Staten Island, to the Assistant Dean of Students at Lehigh University, to Director of Student Activities at Stony Brook University. Before coming to Chapel Hill, she was the Director of Campus Activities and Programs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, serving in that role for eight years.
In her time at UNC-G, Marchesano’s accomplishments included increasing weekend programming on campus, implementing a risk-management assessment plan for student events, and establishing a Greek Life Task Force. Most impressive to Carolina students may be Marchesano’s experience drawing big music acts to campus. She launched the Triad College Music Festival while at UNC-G, and brought in artists such as Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. And while at Stony Brook, she landed Bruno Mars.
Marchesano expects to bring an approachability and personal touch to her role as Union executive director. “It’s the caring part that I will bring to this job,” Marchesano said. “I’ll walk around campus and talk to students. I’ll ask them how they are doing and try to build a community with them. People sometimes focus on differences, but I try to reach out and build bridges. I try to see where we are similar.”