On July 1, Michelle Chen, a project manager in UCLA’s Office of Instructional Development, stepped in as 2016-17 president of Staff Assembly. First on her agenda has been overseeing the massive logistics of the All-Staff Picnic, which will stretch across Dickson Plaza on Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Now in its 12th year, the wildly popular picnic is co-sponsored by Staff Assembly, Campus Human Resources and the Office of the Chancellor. Chen, a UCLA alumna, said she enjoys event planning — but nothing compares with this one. She’s had lots of help from the organization’s leadership as well as the Campus Events Office, the Central Ticket Office, Housing and Hospitality Services, UCLA Recreation and other campus partners. Although "It's been crazy," she admitted, she took time to share a few details with UCLA Newsroom:
You've hit the ground running with managing the All-Staff Picnic. Any glitches?
I got more than 100 emails from people who had problems picking up their free lunch tickets. Some people couldn’t reach any of the campus pickup locations — off-campus staff come to the picnic too — and others had problems with their BruinCards. And then … we ran out of tickets! We’d printed 5,000 tickets and for the first time in the picnic’s history we had to print more.
What’s for lunch, and who makes all those lunches, anyway?
Catering and Conference Services is preparing more than 5,000 box lunches, which they will deliver to Dickson Plaza and stack on 14 very long tables. Lunch this year is a sandwich — choice of turkey or vegetarian — plus a bag of chips and a cookie. We’ll also have kettle corn and watermelon — I can’t even guess how many watermelons we’ll need. And for dessert, Popsicles.
How do you get Chancellor Gene Block and other campus leaders to hand out lunches to staff members?
We ask them. This year we have nine administrators helping out. It's their way of personally showing their appreciation to staff.
Who spins the dance music, and what’s on the playlist? And are there activities are planned?
We hire a deejay, who plays mostly contemporary and pop. And then there’s the “Electric Slide” and other line dances that people love — especially the hard-core dancers whom you see out there year after year. This year we’re trying to get more people out there who don’t usually dance — people who feel they don’t know how to dance. So UCLA Recreation instructors will lead some of the dancing.
What do you like most about the picnic?
The camaraderie, the sense of belonging. There’s no other event where UCLA staff from different areas all over campus and off campus come together like this. I hope everybody has fun.
Where can people find you at the picnic?
I’ll be at the Staff Assembly booth near the stage. I’d love to get feedback about the picnic and about Staff Assembly overall. See me at the picnic or email us your ideas, and we’ll do what we can to make it happen.