Mulugeta Ferede announced as new University Unions executive director

Lizzie Jespersen

The Division of Student Affairs announced Monday that Mulugeta Ferede will be the new University Unions executive director, replacing Andy Smith, who resigned from the position in August.

The unions executive director supervises a staff that works directly with students and manages the Texas Union, Student Activity Center, Hogg Auditorium and Student Services Building. The director also oversees Campus Events + Entertainment and business and food services at the Union.

Smith officially retired from the position in August after 27 years with the unions. Three years before his resignation, Smith was criticized for a proposal to close the Cactus Cafe & Bar in the Union.

Smith will continue to work with the unions until the end of the year, at which point Ferede will take over. Gage Paine, vice president for student affairs, said she appreciates Smith’s willingness to work with the unions in the interim period. 

Ferede, who has worked with unions for almost 20 years, will leave his post of eight years as senior associate director of the Illini Union at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In his time at UT, Ferede said he hopes to build an energetic atmosphere. 

“My interest is really the students,” Ferede said. “I must be a teacher at heart — I’m interested in helping and mentoring students.” 

Paine said she is excited Ferede has experience in working directly with students and managing facilities. 

“He brings a business sense and student engagement sense into the mix,” Paine said. “I have expectations that he’ll bring great energy into our programs. … When a new person comes in, no matter how strong an organization is, a new person sees new things and asks questions that someone who has been there for 27 years doesn’t ask.” 

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly said during the interview process Ferede demonstrated qualities she was looking for — including integrity, passion and a student-centered mind-set. 

“I’m hoping that the student body will have the opportunity to get to know him and share their vision of what they would like to see as we continue to build on the excellence of our program and facilities,” Reagins-Lilly said. “I am looking forward to a collaborative process to determine the future growth that includes students at the center.”