The University of Florida’s first college union was established in 1936, as the Florida Union and was located in what is now Dauer Hall. Donald Ray “Billy” Matthews served as the first Director of the Florida Union from 1936 to 1948. During Matthew’s tenure the union served as the hub of campus and the center of student activities for a student body of 3,500. Just like today, student employees were the front-line service providers in the union.
The D. R. “Billy” Matthews Scholarship is awarded to qualified student employees of the Reitz Union in recognition of their hard work. Recipients of the scholarship have showcased exemplary work performance, service to the campus, and dedication to the surrounding community.
Alexis is a senior and serves as a Reitz Union Game Room Student Assistant. He credits the Game Room for having one of the kindest and most supportive staffs on campus. He uses his role in the Reitz Union to make meaningful connections with current and prospective students. “The joy I feel preparing prospective students and their parents who visit the Game Room for what may lie ahead [at the University of Florida] has been a major highlight of my job.”
When asked about the impact the Reitz Union had on his student experience, he said “I am grateful to work at such a key part of our campus. I am confident the skills I have gained in my position in the Reitz Union will apply to any business field I pursue in the future. I am glad I contribute to a culture instrumental to the Reitz Union and the University of Florida. As shown through my experience and many others, student unions play a significant role in the experience of countless students, faculty, and staff. We are lucky and I am thankful to have such an involved student union on our campus.”
Felipe is a senior and serves as a Student Manager at Newell Hall. As a Student Manager, he is responsible for overseeing over 100 student assistants that enforce the safety and efficiency of each building. He has been a part of the Newell Hall team since its grand re-opening in 2017, where he assisted in establishing the efficiency of its operations and organizational culture. He has served as a Student Government Senator, and president of the Student Activities & Involvement’s Involvement Team, while also volunteering at Clean the World in his spare time.
When asked about the impact of the Reitz Union on his student experience, he said “my experience as an employee of the Reitz Union, along with my student experience utilizing the union for all aspects of student engagement, embodied the values and mission of the university and the Reitz and helped me become a more efficient, detail-oriented, and analytical leader — traits that have helped me succeed both in and outside of the classroom.”
Branden is a senior and serves as a Student Assistant with GatorNights, the Reitz Union’s weekly late-night program that provides entertainment and activities to thousands of guests each week. He credits his time spent working in the Reitz Union for providing him opportunities to be more inclusive with diverse communities and the many lessons that come with building inclusive programming.
“A student union’s ability to accommodate such a diverse group of people is one of its greatest strengths, and my student experience has benefited from it because I now have a greater understanding of the extraordinary cultures that our community embraces.” When asked about the impact of the Reitz Union on his student experience, he said “my experience at the University of Florida would be hectic and dull if the Reitz Union was absent, and I am thankful for all of the precious moments that I shared with my friends and co-workers within its walls.”
The area of Student Engagement, which includes the J. Wayne Reitz Union, employs over 300 student employees each year. Student Engagement is comprised of six areas on a quest for innovation, collaboration, and the fully engaged student. They seek to inspire exploration in every Gator through opportunities for learning, leadership, engagement and the spaces that enrich the campus community.