The Best... Place to Get Told Where to Go

Got questions? Janet Padilla and other “O” Desk staffers have answers. Photograph by Nic Walcott, BS '16 (journalism), University Communications

As someone who takes pride in her knowledge of campus, I never gave much thought to the “O” Desk in the Erb Memorial Union. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about campus, thank you very much.

Like other students, I have walked by the information desk—officially, the Christi and Mark Goodman Family Information Desk—regularly while taking a shortcut through the EMU to class. It’s easy to spot in the light, open area on the ground floor. The desk sits alone, an O-shaped island marking the hub of the EMU—like an X on a treasure map. A giant “O” light fixture hangs above, like an oversized spotlight. It’s not hard to see why the desk got its name.

My first interaction with the Goodman Family “O” Desk was in 2017, during my sophomore year, when I asked how to change the TV channel to watch a hockey game. My hometown team, the Minnesota Wild, was playing the archrival Chicago Blackhawks. By chance, the staffer who showed me how to find the game was also from Minnesota, the State of Hockey, so he was happy to help. He even watched for a few minutes during a shift break.

However, my image of what the “O” Desk staff did remained limited to the idea they solely answered questions and gave directions.

It’s safe to say I underestimated them.

Katie Dunne, who has worked there since the reopening of the EMU in fall 2016, describes her experience in three words: busy, central, fun.

“We’re like the moms of campus,” Dunne says. “Someone even asked me once where they could get cough drops.”

Her favorite part of the job is selling the school to parents and kids. She says it’s fun to watch them get excited about the UO and then to see the kids back on campus later as students.

As the school’s unofficial ambassadors, “O” Desk staffers are trained to answer almost every question you could imagine. They receive active threat and safety training. But mostly, they’re a resource for the university community. Whether they’re talking to the parents of prospective students or hosting events for current Ducks, there is never a dull day.

Recently, the “O” Desk hosted an event for National Eat What You Want Day. In celebration of this lesser known but savored national holiday, the desk doled out Fritos, popcorn, and other tempting treats. According to staffer Janet Padilla, snacks meant to last the day were gone in less time than it takes to drive from Eugene into Beaver territory. Yikes.

“I love the national event days because people who don’t usually come to the desk stop by for the food,” Padilla says. “It’s a chance to meet new people.”

Now that I know more about the Goodman Family “O” Desk, I’ll make good use of it. Just recently, a staffer let me in on the location of the EMU’s coldest drinking fountain (first floor, across from Chipotle Mexican Grill). And I will definitely keep an eye out for national snack days.

And even if I never think of anything else to ask them, I know they’ll always be there to help me change the TV channel to watch the Wild crush their rivals.

—By Darienne Stiyer

Darienne Stiyer, Class of 2019, is a double major in journalism and international studies.