Owl of the Week: Michael Cooper

As the newest director of the Student Union, Cooper is planning to completely renovate the building in a project with a $22.7 million budget.


Amber Kelley, Contributing Writer

This story is part of a recurring feature meant to highlight members of FAU who are accomplished in their field, i.e. leaders, entrepreneurs, creators, etc. If you would like to nominate someone for Owl of the Week, email Features Editor Hope Dean at [email protected]. Students, faculty, and staff are all eligible.

Video games, pool, and table tennis are all too familiar to the new FAU Student Union Director Michael Cooper.

Cooper stepped into his position in September of 2017, and his daily routine consists of overseeing the overall management, finances, and growth strategies of the Union to make sure it runs efficiently.

Before any of this first began, however, he graduated from New Jersey’s Rowan University with a major in finance. He was then hired at Siemens, a company specializing in energy-efficient technology, where he would spend the next twenty-five years of his professional life.

His career at Siemens was a mobile one, requiring him to travel state-to-state in an airplane weekly and live in Southern and Northern California. Even when Cooper was at his house, he was working 24/7 in his personal office.

“My home,” as the director put it, “became a business.”

He eventually wished to live in another place with a more enticing scene, so Cooper moved to Boca for a different career. Tired of constant flights and wanting a job close to his new home, he took advantage of FAU being in his backyard, moving away from his traditional corporate career and into new territory.

Cooper first worked as the director of procurement in the Controller’s Office, where he helped secure the implementation of Workday, the university’s online Human Resource and Financial Management system. After three years of hard work and teambuilding, Cooper was ready for a new challenge presented by Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Corey King.

King offered for him to come in as the new director of the Student Union with the opportunity to see through the “new, inviting, and fresh” look the building will undergo within the next couple of years. Cooper was hooked on the idea of being a part of the improvement, and decided to take the position that had been vacant for almost two years prior.

The new job didn’t come without new challenges, however.

“The hard part of coming over here and transitioning was that Hurricane Irma hit when I started,” Cooper said.

Before the hurricane reached land, the Student Union had to be prepared. All of the televisions and computers were covered with trash bags, and the outdoor tables and chairs were brought inside.

Despite such challenges, however, it’s ultimately better to have a director than to not have one, according to  Associate Director of the Student Union Kevin Allen.

“Now that we have a director onboard, the Union will now have a voice that speaks on behalf of our staff, faculty, and students throughout campus,” he said.

Widlin Dieujuste, Assistant Director for Event Planning at the Student Union, would agree.

“Prior to not having a director, you are hoping the people who are in the meetings having conversations have your best interest in mind, you would hope they know what your needs are. But now that we have a director, we know our voices will be heard,” he said.

Alongside student voices having an opportunity to grow, the Union itself will be expanding from its current lobby to a cleaner, updated space. The entirety of the construction’s budget will be $22.7 million.

The Union is the “heartbeat of the campus …  You start in the Union with orientation and leave FAU in the Union for graduation,” Cooper said.

Cooper hopes to have more meeting rooms, a small coffee shop, and a full-scale restaurant as part of the Student Union project, essentially serving to “build a little city in the university,” he said. 

A building will also be constructed on the Student Union Outdoor Stage grounds to host special events. This anticipated 1,000 seat conference facility is planned to be breaking ground in November of this year.

“The construction is a really good thing. I’ve seen pictures of Student Unions at other schools and they’re a lot bigger, more up-to-date than ours. I think the new construction would get a different crowd in the Union,” commented Operation Manager Aubree Woolley, a senior studying exercise science and health promotion.

As for Cooper’s stance toward the plans, his favorite quote by Winston Churchill sums it up: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

Amber Kelley is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].