Name: Mandi Bryson Copeland
Hometown: Birmingham, Michigan
Education: B.S. in communications, mass media studies; M.S. in physical education, athletic administration
Job title: Associate Director for Events and Operations, Stern Student Center and Office of Student Life
How long have you worked at the College? 10 1/2 years
What are your job responsibilities? I manage the operations of student life’s facilities, including the Stern Student Center and Garden, Rivers Green, Cougar Mall and Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center spaces when not being used for classes. This includes reservations, overseeing student staff, event management, emergency operations, safety trainings and working with our professional staff to provide the best experience possible for our entire campus community.
What do you like most about your job? The top of the list is the interaction with the students, both our staff and those using our facilities. Watching students develop skills and have those aha moments outweighs any of the other challenges and keeps me going. Second would be working with campus partners on their events and putting together the puzzle pieces and logistics for a successful experience, whether it’s in our facility or a campuswide event.
What question do you get asked most in your job and what’s your typical answer? “Is this space available and can I reserve it?” My response: “Have you checked the calendar and filled out a reservation form?” I spend most of my time answering questions about reservations and follow-up for events in our spaces, everything from availability to complex setup for larger conferences.
What’s your favorite location on campus and why? Standing at the Stern Center information desk during a busy time of the year (Orientation, Accepted Students Day, first few weeks of school, midterms). You never know who will walk through the door, and it is sometimes their first impression of the College. I have met faculty and staff face to face after years of emailing by just being in the lobby, had conversations with incoming students from my home state, and watched while students host events throughout the building that pour over into the lobby. There is never a dull moment.
What are your hobbies? There are two totally different categories: creativity and being outdoors. I have a creative streak – painting, writing, photography, singing – but I also love a good, long walk (or run, depending on day). I love sports – tennis being at the top of the list – and would rather be at the game or competing than watching it on television.
What personal and/or professional accomplishment are you most proud of? Personal: playing Division I tennis at West Virginia my freshman year of college. It was a goal to play – and, even though I transferred to Florida State after that year, it shaped my college experience being part of something bigger than just going to class. (Shout out to all the transfers!)
Professional: serving as ACUI [Association of College Unions – International] Region III’s second regional director, budgeting for a region of seven states and two territories and serving on the leadership team for the international association. Those two years taught me how to work with a team of different leadership styles, personalities and backgrounds on a common goal.
Name a creative work (book, movie, performance, etc.) you enjoyed recently and why? While this is not the most recent, it is one of the most memorable: seeing Phantom of the Opera in Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. As a lover of all musicals, seeing it in a theater where it has been since 1986 was the most memorable of any production I have attended, including my own performances.
Most recently, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Twice. I was a Star Wars kid – ever since I was old enough to remember. I remember watching the original and Empire Strikes Back on HBO in our living room in Florida. There is a photo somewhere of me with a small R2-D2 at a convention (I must have been 4 or 5), and I have recent photos of me and Chewbacca. There is something about the Star Wars series that brings back childhood.
What was your favorite TV show growing up? M*A*S*H* – and I will still sit and watch the reruns when they are on. There was something about the show that always kept me captivated. We had a M*A*S*H* day in elementary school, and I was so upset when I had to miss it because I was at home sick!
What’s next on your bucket list? Taking a cruise. My ultimate dream cruise would be to visit the Arctic Circle, or even an expedition to the Arctic Circle. Before I do that, I’ll take a short one to check it off the list.
What is something your campus colleagues would be surprised to know about you? I’m a singer; since before I could walk, I could sing. My parents have video of me singing on the front steps of our house in Michigan at the age of 3, and I have not stopped. Every so often you will hear me sing the national anthem at a CofC athletic event.
What was your first job? I ran the pro shop at the tennis club where I trained – Shadow Oaks in Greenville, South Carolina. We did everything from stringing the racquets to sweeping courts at 6 a.m. It was a lot of fun – and turned into running a tennis camp for the owner at a university in the upstate during college.
What’s your favorite Lowcountry restaurant? Is it possible to have just one? Anyplace where I can sit and enjoy raw oysters and see the water, and preferably a sunset. I would rather drive 45 minutes to a place with picnic benches than a few minutes to a place with crystal glasses.
Describe your perfect day: Checking the tide charts the day before and scheduling the day according to low tide. Getting up early, regardless of the tide, and seeing the sun rise on the beach. Then taking my camera down to the beach, just in case, and spending the day at the beach looking for shark teeth. Top it off with an overflow of oysters with friends over a fire pit at a location near the water where you can still see the sunset.
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