BU People: the generalist of the GSU
Student Union director Annemarie Kougias
Each week throughout the summer, Annemarie Kougias moves a room full of people to tears.
At the end of a three-day Orientation session — after learning about housing, scheduling, and financial aid — the parents of incoming freshmen gather in the George Sherman Union’s Metcalf ballroom, where Kougias gives them the final presentation: “Parenting During the College Years.”
“We talk about homesickness and try to give them some moral support about what they may be dealing with,” says Kougias, the director of the GSU. “A lot of parents cry — mothers, in particular.”
Kougias hasn’t yet had to deal with the college years herself — her children are 10 and 12 — but during her 19 years at BU, the Norwood native has served as a stand-in parent to hundreds of students, helping them navigate University life and transition into the real world. As the director of the Student Union, her primary role is to coordinate the various student, faculty, and outside groups that make use of the campus center. However, in nearly two decades, she’s acquired so much knowledge about BU that she’s taken on much more of a “generalist” role, she says.
“When people come to me with questions, I try to find the answers myself so I’ll know them myself,” she says. “Hopefully, with all that information, I can connect with people.”
At Orientation, Kougias says, she tries to offer parents a final chance to get all their questions answered — and to reassure them that, despite the odds, moving 1,700 students into Warren Towers over Labor Day weekend isn’t as trying as it sounds. “It’s amazing how many parents find me later and say, ‘You’re right, it was easy,’” she says.
When the academic year begins, Kougias shifts her focus back to students. More than 100 students are employed by the GSU each year and many others work with Kougias to schedule events at the Union. “They’re pretty remarkable people,” she says of the students. “I listen to intellectual conversations that are way over my head.”
She also credits current BU students with helping her learn about how education, technology, and industry are changing. “In a very short period of time, it’s going to be today’s students running the world — not my generation,” she says. “The students are very patient with me, helping me understand where they’re coming from, what they’re about.”
While she has seen the University at both high and low points during her time here, her most memorable experiences have been a combination of both — notably, the University’s response to September 11 in 2001 and, more recently, to Hurricane Katrina last fall. The way students affected by the hurricane dealt with the aftermath — and the way the BU community welcomed visiting students from Tulane University — really represented life at the University to Kougias.
“To see students come up here and put their lives back together, it really touched me,” she says. “Being here, I feel like I’m in a pretty big world.”