I Spy Someone making a difference.
Whitney Comer, nurturing leaders and building traditionsby Russell Alston
Whitney Comer, director of the Office Student Activities and Leadership (OSAL), may have the best and the busiest job on campus, and that’s no accident.
“When I first got here, the goals were to increase the activities and the leadership opportunities for students,” she says. ”We have enough activities; now let’s start creating some traditions.”
Comer and her staff have been busy establishing or maintaining a litany of traditions at Coastal Carolina University: Teal Tuesdays, CINO Day, Relay 4 Life, the First 54 Initiative, Chant-A-Thon, Elect Her and the Student Activities and Leadership Awards.
“She’s led some great efforts, looking to establish traditions for our students,” says Debbie Conner, vice president of student affairs.
Establishing traditions was Comer’s plan when she arrived at CCU in February 2010, looking for a “broader experience with more responsibilities.” Her wish has been granted. As director of OSAL, Comer works with student organizations to accomplish their mission and achieve their goals. This includes assisting in managing student organizations, hosting training seminars on fundraising ideas and providing advice on management of funds.
Comer also oversees CCU’s Fraternity and Sorority Life, working with fraternities and sororities to accomplish their goals of academic excellence, leadership on campus, community service and philanthropy, in addition to the traditional dedication to brotherhood and sisterhood.
When she’s not attending student organization meetings, Inter-Fraternal Council meetings, National Pan-Hellenic Council meetings or budget meetings, Comer can be found at Student Government Association sessions or tagging along with SGA to Columbia for conferences. Being pulled in so many directions requires a delicate balancing act, but Comer is used to the “ebbs and flows” of the students’ needs. She isn’t a one-woman band, however. “I have a staff of eight employees I couldn’t do without,” she says.
What she is most proud of are the leadership programs initiated during her tenure: CINO Quest for freshmen, CINO Ignite for sophomores and the new CINO Legacy for upperclassmen. “This is what’s important to me,” she says. “Providing leadership training to students who may not get it every day.”
Tyger Glauser, assistant director of student activities, praises her boss’ tireless effort “for two-and-a-half years to grow OSAL into a more dynamic force on and off campus. Whitney is the unsung hero of Student Activities and Leadership.”
Glauser’s words could also apply to Comer’s personal life, since her favorite hobby is “helping people.”
Comer’s position on the Horry County Habitat for Humanity board of directors best exemplifies this. She assisted in the construction of a habitat home in Longs as part of Student Affairs Volunteer Day. She is currently organizing a fundraiser for a bed race in April, where teams will construct a vehicle made out of mattresses. “I believe it’s a fun way to get the community involved and to raise awareness for Habitat for Humanity, ” she says.
Free time is spent enjoying her monthly massage, catching up with old college friends and traveling with her husband of four years, Brent Comer. Destination points include a trip to the Grand Canyon, attending Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis and, more recently, an outing to Washington, D.C., with her 12-year-old niece and 15-year-old nephew.
“We took them to the Smithsonian, Arlington National Cemetery, Ford’s Theatre and all of the monuments along the National Mall,” she says. “We saw a lot of D.C. in those four days." The best stop, however, was at Georgetown Cupcakes, made famous on the TLC reality series “D.C. Cupcakes,” her niece’s favorite show.
Comer's favorite vacation, however, was to Australia in 2007. Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef and watching baby penguins return to their nest were highlights of “an amazing trip.”
“She is an outstanding supervisor and always keeps a level head, which is much needed in the high-paced world of OSAL,” says Glauser.
“Whitney is always evaluating herself and her department,” says Conner. “It’s refreshing to have someone who’s always looking at how we can do things different.”
For Comer, these are necessities, which makes her perfect for the position. “The thing that energizes me about my job is that it’s something different every day,” she says. “The same thing over and over again? I don’t do well with routine.”