Annual Report 2021

Annual Summary Report

Executive Summary

The 2021-2022 academic year kicked off with 18,302 students attending Welcome Week, a 20% increase from the previous full academic year. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to present issues for the Illini Union and its operations even as restrictions were lifted including reduced staffing, supply chain issues, more remote work schedules. However, the Illini Union did see 2,027,485 visitors with 6,308 space reservations. 

The Illini Union Hotel was designated as an isolation location for UIUC students, providing safe and clean accommodations to 223 students between September 2021 and February 2022. The Hotel was able to reach guest capacity for Dads Weekend, Homecoming weekend, Moms Weekend, Commencement weekend, and for state wrestling and state basketball. 

The Bookstore (in-store and online) and the Quad Shop served over 196,000 customers and increased sales over prior year by 32% despite the challenges and having to change operating hours. 

The Illini Union welcomed Just BEE Acai and Tropical Smoothie to the first floor of the Illini Union, filling two vacant locations. The Union also opened a new third Starbucks location at the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering building, along with assisting Espresso Royale in opening a new location in the newly opened Campus Instructional Facility. However, the Illini Union also had two longtime restaurant partners leave as Wendy’s and Qdoba didn’t renew their agreements.

The top accomplishment of Student Programs & Activities was the department’s ability to almost completely transition back to pre-COVID operations with in-person events by both Courtyard Café and the Illini Union Board, the return of the Illini Union Co-Sponsorship Program for Registered Student Organizations, and the return of normal services for the Rec Room. 

The Courtyard Café hosted 205 events. That’s a nearly 41% increase from the previous full academic year. The Courtyard Café was also able to bring back the RSO Partnership Program, which resulted in seven programs. The co-sponsors included Hindu YUVA UIUC, Indian Graduate Student Association, Chabad Jewish Student Association, Chabad Center for Student Life, In Living Color, Bruce Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, LGBTQ Resource Center, Gamma Phi Omega Sorority, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, and the Jasmine Field Orchestra.

The IU Board hosted 161 fully in-person events with 39,931 students attending during the 2021-2022 academic year which is a 3% increase from the previous full operating academic year. The IU Board’s Enriching Committee also successfully brought in-person lectures back on campus. After reintroducing the series with smaller speakers, they brought Steve Burns from Blues Clues with 800 students attending. The year culminated with An Evening with The Office where two Office cast members came for a Q&A with a moderator and questions from the audience with over 1,200 students attending.

The Rec Room had a successful return to normal operating procedures with 40,732 games bowled, as well as 7,269 hours of billiards played, and 335 reservations. 96% of the bowling and billiards were by Illinois students. Of the total reservation, 52% were student-led organizations, 39% were affiliates (including individual faculty/staff as well as university units). The bowling leagues had the highest sign ups since 2011 with over 30 participants in each league.

The Parent and Family Programs Office (PFPO) worked with the Dads Association to return in-person Dads Weekend programming. PFPO supported the Dads Association activities including Illini Dads 5K, Dads Tent Party, Dads Weekend Concert at Foellinger, hockey and volleyball tickets, and Dads Association Sunday Brunch. Moms Weekend programming also returned to in-person in April 2022 with the Moms Association. Events for Moms weekend included, the Moms Association Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony, Paint and Chat, and Moms Association Brunch. 

We are proud of all our student employee’s accomplishments and dedication to the Illini Union. One of the Illini Union student employees, Kayla Berry (Rec Room), was selected as runner-up for the campus’s Student Employee of the Year.


Accomplishment #1 - Programming

a. The top accomplishment of Student Programs & Activities was the department’s ability to almost completely transition back to pre-COVID operations. Not including University mandated restrictions that were put in place during the first week or two of each semester, SP&A was able to return to full operations despite being severely understaffed. Programming included in-person events by both Courtyard Café and the Illini Union Board, the return of the Illini Union Co-Sponsorship Program for Registered Student Organizations, and the return of normal services for the Rec Room. 

b. The Illini Union Board successfully co-sponsored with 26 separate units and student organizations this past year. That’s a 160% increase from the previous full academic year. Co-sponsorships/partnerships made up 16% of the total of all IU Board events, an increase of 13% from the previous full academic year.

c. Parent and Family Programs Office hosted a virtual international orientation in August 2021, pivoted to digital delivery of Family Resource Guide to families during virtual New Student Registration in summer 2021 and returned to in-person programming for both Moms and Dads Weekends.

Accomplishment #2 - Operations

a. Operations supported a return to in person events at Illini Union, Anniversary Plaza, and the historic Quad. This was accomplished with a drastically reduced staff due to the impacts of COVID on hiring.

b. During the COVID pandemic, Operations sustained the mission of the Illini Union by providing the campus with safe, clean spaces for free speech, protest, debate, and discussion. Event Services also worked with campus partners to review and approve department Quad usage requests, including Quad Day in August 2021 and Spring Jam in April 2022. In addition, Event Services coordinated Illinois Student Government meetings, demonstrations and cultural events on the Anniversary Plaza, and other meetings. 

c. The Facilities and Hotel teams supported the campus and the Illini Union through a robust COVID sanitization program of public spaces, meeting rooms, hotel rooms housing COVID quarantine/isolations students, and the SHIELD program. Our Building Service team received praise from the Chancellor’s Office regarding their efforts to support the SHIELD testing center. Illini Union remains the sole testing site for the campus as of May 2022.

Accomplishment #3 - Retail

a. The Illini Union Retail team distributed over 20,000 online orders, 4,000 KN95 masks, 1,000 COVID testing kits, and 5,000 disinfecting wipes to students, faculty, alumni, and staff.

b. The Bookstore leadership team worked in collaboration with Government Relations, Student Affairs Leadership and State Government leaders to update the Retail Sales Act that allows the university to charge student accounts for course materials. The revision in the law will allow the campus to lower overall cost for students’ and support student success by providing access to course materials on, or before, the first day of class for all students enrolled in these sections.

c. Online sales increased to 35%, as our email marketing list grew to more than 54,000. The Virtual Store was relocated to the Bookstore to increase efficiency as online sales continue to grow.

d. The Illini Union welcomed two new restaurant partners on the main floor in the Illini Union (Just Bee Acai and Tropical Smoothie) as well as one off-site (Espresso Royale at the Campus Instructional Facility) The Vendor Contracts office processed a record number of 11 on-campus food truck permits. 

e. Campus Mail sold more than 15,000 stamp and delivered 24,000 pieces of campus mail.

f. Illini Union Document Services printing production continued to support the campus’ efforts to follow Illinois’ COVID-19 protocols by producing an additional 16,700 stickers and signs to reflect updated protocol. 

g. Throughout the fiscal year, the Food and Beverage Operations team helped to create and manage revenues of over $2.2 million and served over 374,000 students, faculty, and campus community members.

h. With the recent completion of the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building construction and renovation project, the Illini Union opened the third full-service Starbucks store, providing additional revenue and training opportunities for student staff members. From October to June, the served over 55,000 customers.

Key Challenges

The three main challenges the Illini Union faced in 2021-2022 were staff shortages/students availability to work, supply-chain disruptions, and a variety of trends and shifts in workforce desires and demands.

All Illini Union departments and the vendors faced staff retirements, departures, and lower number of students seeking employment. These staff shortage issues impacted overall operations, including decreasing operating hours and the ability to implement new initiatives. Many staff members had to cover responsibilities or shifts for other areas and had to clock longer than normal work hours, leading to some staff burnout.

Like the rest of the world, the Illini Union units faced supply-chain issues throughout this year. The Bookstore faced shortages with apparel items on 6-8 month back orders. The Tech Zone had backlogs of orders to fill after Apple closed three plants in China. The Quad Shop, Starbucks, and Union restaurants faced a shortage or not available menu items due to the supply-chain delays.

In addition, university staff worked hybrid and remote work schedules lowering the on-campus customer base. This had an affect on all of the food and beverage vendors, Event Services/Multimedia, and other Illini Union operations with reduced foot traffic compared to year’s past.

Assessment Activities

The Illini Union conducted several formal and informal assessments over this reporting time.

An informal on-going building usage assessment was used to look at daily entry counts, and area building usage. These assessments helped the staff understand how spaces were being utilized and could help us decide when to add additional study spaces and justify offering free individual and group study spaces. Below are more formal assessments we undertook:

Food Concept survey (Fall 2021)

Description: The purpose of the survey is to understand student needs when choosing food as well as to improve dining service at the Illini Union. The findings of the survey will help the Illini Union select vendors that best serve student needs and continue provide quality service to the students and public. The survey questions include: the attributes of the restaurant, cuisine preference, food concept, coffee/tea, menu items, price-point, etc.

Survey questions:

  • The attributes of the restaurant, cuisine preference, food concept, menu items
  • Satisfaction of food service
  • Demographic questions

About the survey:

  • Fielding dates: October 10-30, 2021
  • Number of responses: 9.22% (461/5000)

Key findings:

  • The top three attributes when making decision about a quick restaurant/café are: price (69.2%), convenience location (56.8%) and type of food (48.2%)
  • The top three unique cuisines to be seen available are: Asian, American and Italian.
  • 24.12% of the participants visited the Illini Union every week, 20.6% of the participants visited the Illini Union every 2 weeks and 17.1% visited the Union more than twice a week.

Faculty Focus Bookstore survey (Spring 2021)

The purpose of the Student Watch Study is to evaluate student attitudes and behaviors toward their course materials. The results are beneficial to the Illini Union Bookstore to understand student acquisition behavior, academic spending trends, where and how students find value in course materials, student preference and overall trends in the course material space. The Illini Union Bookstore participates in this study every four years. We participated in the study in Spring 2017 and Spring 2021. The survey invitation was sent out to 5,000 students (both undergraduate and graduate). The response rate of 2021 survey was 3.24% (162/5000).

Key findings:

  • The top three sources that faculty refer students to obtain course materials: campus store (58%), campus learning management system (53%), and library (51%)
  • The top three reasons for the faculty not to require any course materials: can get with other materials (66%), cost of materials/save student money (43%), and no materials are needed for the class (33%)
  • Big challenges as an instructor because of Covid impact: student’s well-being (59%), work responsibility (56%) and student engagement (40%)

Illini Union Board Learning Outcomes Assessment (ongoing)

This self-reflection assessment is designed for the IU Board members, committee members and committee directors to reflect on the outcomes as a result of participating in student volunteer organizations. The self-reflection questionnaire includes ten categories of learning outcomes: communication, teamwork, influencing others, research and data collection, critical thinking and presentation, social awareness and cultural understanding, global perspective, integrity, work ethic/time management, and career development and readiness. The data is reviewed by the IU Board advisors periodically to understand the experience of serving in the leadership positions and help future student leaders perform their roles successfully.

Summary of results:

The learning outcomes plan was developed in the Fall of 2019 and the data was first collected in January 2020. The surveys were sent out to the Illini Union Board leaders in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. The data showed student leaders were more confident (means above 4.3, ranging from 1 to 5) in acting in an honest manner regardless of whether or not anyone else will know (m=4.56, 4.60); (m=4.44); working in a team structure with people from different backgrounds taking on various roles (m=4.33, 4.60); accepting constructive criticism from other team members (m=4.33, 4.40). The data showed students felt less comfortable (means below 3.6, ranging from 1 to 5) in maintaining a healthy work/life balance (m=3.33, 3.20) and aware of significant global events and issues (m=3.67,, 3.80).

Dads Weekend (Fall 2021)

The survey aims to review Dads Weekend satisfaction level and seeks to make improvement for future events. The survey questions include registration process, experience attending events, and overall experience.

  • 92.6% of participants reported positive experience about Dads Weekend. 
  • 90.7% of the participants stated that they would recommend Dads Weekend to a friend.

Illini Union Board Programming Attendee Survey

The Illini Union Board conducted survey to ask students while attending the Illini Union Board events. Attendees reported that they found out the event from Instagram (32.8%), from friends (26.2%) and from Illini Union Board/Illini Union Website (13.1%). More than 90% of the attendees stated that they had a good experience and recommended to their friends.

Illini Union Marketing Survey

The purpose of the brief survey is to understand how students find out the Illini Union events and their overall experiences. Survey participants reported that they found out the event from Instagram (32.7%), from sing on the Quad (28.6%) and from friends (10.2%). 91.8% of the participants stated that they were satisfied with the Illini Union. When asked what came to their mind first thinking of the Illini Union, the top three words are: food, fun and study.

Illini Union Hotel Survey (Fall 2021)

The Illini Union Hotel conducts and collects a customer service survey monthly for the hotel management team to continue quality service. Survey questions include check-in process, guest room condition, food and dining service and check-out process.

Key findings (data collected from September 2021 to December 2021)

  • 90% of the patrons were very satisfied with the Check-in process.
  • 92% of the patrons were satisfied with the Guest room condition.
  • 97% of the patrons were satisfied with the check-out process.
  • 87% of the patrons would recommend the Illini Union Hotel to a friend or family.

Equity, Inclusion, Justice

As the department replaces several vacancies, we continue to be aware of our need to fill positions with qualified management which better reflects the diverse student body and campus community. To help with this, Illini Union HR implemented interview evaluation matrix to address subjective hiring practices.

Incorporating equity, inclusion, and justice in our retail operations is paramount as we continue to develop a diverse variety of food offerings through our vendors especially in their ownership.

Collaborative Partnerships

The IU Board successfully partnered with the following units/student organizations: Illinois Public Safety, Homecoming Committee, Student Sustainability Committee, Black Greek Council, Central Black Student Union, United Greek Council, Campus Recreation, Wellness Ambassadors, McKinley Health Center, Illini Esports, Asian American Cultural Center, European Union Center, Illini Ridgebacks Quidditch Team, Illinois Promise, 40 North Gallery, Phi Mu Sorority, Counseling Center, Horticulture Club, iCAP, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, & Environment, Sociology Department, Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department, Star Course, and State Farm Center.

Parent and Family Programs Office partnered with Admissions, Housing, and International Student and Scholars for various new student orientation programs.

Human Resources collaborated with the following: Illinois Human Resources/Labor Employee Relations, Employee Development & Learning, and the Office of Access and Equity.

Courtyard Café collaborated with the following units/student organizations: Public Safety, the Counseling Center, School of Music, Odd Request, Spicy Clamato, The Other Guys, No Comment, The Girls Next Door, Pacific Lotion, Bandside UIUC, Phoenix Improv, and Chai Town.


The Illini Union had five smaller facility renovations over this past year:

  • Illini Union Board suite (222) had a finish, furniture, equipment renovation.
  • The Union opened two new food vendor locations with the renovation of first floor space for local restaurant Just BEE Acai and national-chain Tropical Smoothie.
  • Illini Union operations worked with the Illinois Leadership Center for aesthetic renovations in their second-floor space.

The Illini Union worked with Engineering to open a new Starbucks location in the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building. The Illini Union also worked with the Campus Instructional Facility to open a new Espresso Royale location in that building.

2022-2023 Goals

Below are the 2022-2023 Goals and Strategic Initiatives for the Illini Union

Goal 1: Staff recruitment and Training

Increase department resiliency and improve the guest experience by cross-training student staff to cover multiple role functions (Building Operations, Multimedia, Event Services, and Hotel).

Goal 2: Develop and implement an Inclusive Access Program for student textbook purchases

Pilot for the goal is 2-5 courses by Fall of 2023; 15-25 for spring of 2024; and grow to 200 courses by the end of spring of 2025. 

Goal 3: Student leadership/employee development for Union areas

Complete the revision and edit of the Illini Union Board Operations/Training Manual. Implement a more comprehensive assessment process for all aspects of SP&A operations (Illini Union Board, Courtyard Café). 

Goal 4: Fill all Food Court vacancies

Wanting to have all 5 restaurant locations filled in the Lower Level.

Total Union Visits
Total IU Board Events
161 events; 39,931 attendees
Hotel Numbers
4,641 Hotel Guests; 2,832 Room Nights
Website Statistics
227,777 users; 663,358 pageviews