Clara-Meretan Kiah / Contributing Writer
After 35 years of service from Ruth Hamilton, “Diva of the Graham Center,” a fresh face came in this fall as senior director: FIU alum Sanyo Mathew.
Mathew arrived at the University 13 years ago as an international student from India.
GC was the first place he set foot on campus, before he even had the chance to meet anyone or visit anywhere in the city.
The student union quickly became one of his main hangout spots between classes, and it wasn’t long before he was hounding down administrators for a student job.
“I started off at the Welcome Center, and really just worked my way up through almost every department possible here at the Graham Center,” said Mathew.
While working part time for the University, Mathew took a full load of undergraduate and graduate classes.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in management of information systems at the University. After that, he settled down into a career at the Graham Center.
Mathew worked his way up through the ranks at GC. He served as associate director for the past three years, where he planned and oversaw the $3.7 million FIU OneCard operation.
In June, Mathew took over as interim director of GC, after Hamilton retired from her 35-year tenure. He was hired permanently as senior director on Aug. 21.
“He is so talented and experienced at such a young age,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Lunsford, who oversees student activities at the University.
Mathew said that his personal experience as a Panther and his drive to give back to the school that has been his second home since he moved to the United States made him the right fit for senior director.
He joked that being a Panther is so ingrained in him that he and his wife, who also graduated from FIU, chose blue and gold as their wedding colors.
“Coming into the position, I knew there was an advantage of being home-grown,” he said, “and being so heavily intertwined in the diversity, the culture and the essence of FIU.”
Being a part of FIU for so long has given Mathew a slew of ideas to help improve the Graham Center and keep working toward the University’s goal of innovation.
He is currently working on setting up charging stations all over campus, several of which can already be found in GC, with charging cables for various brands of phones, tablets and other mobile devices.
Other smaller projects he has in mind include improving bathroom facilities and other necessities in the building.
“The biggest challenge I’m working toward is space. That’s my main goal,” Mathew said.
GC does not have enough space to accommodate every organization’s needs each week, especially the larger groups, such as sororities and fraternities, who are charged fees to rent out the larger facilities like the ballrooms for meetings.
Mathew believes that opening up more space for student organizations will not only make holding their meetings easier, but it will also fortify the sense of community GC hopes to create as the hub of the University.
The money allocated for GC projects such as this comes from the Capital Improvement Trust Fund, which is used to build and renovate student facilities.
This year, the University asked state legislators to approve $3.9 million for upcoming GC renovation plans.
Mathew also hopes to create a student advisory board to provide feedback about the Graham Center.
Representatives from Student Government Association and other student groups, as well as members of the student faculty at GC, will comprise this board and offer their perspective on improving the center.
“To me, this is just a title,” said Mathew. “It’s all a team effort, and it takes a lot to make this building tick.”