New Union, Who Dis?

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The rumors have been flying lately regarding the beloved Union. The Oglesby Union remodel and renovation is happening; the architects officially have permission to move forward on this enormous project. On Tuesday January 24, 2017, architects from Workshop Architects and Architects Lewis and Whitlock held the first set of student focus groups. This visit was the first of many that will take place throughout the semester to gather as much student opinion as they can in order to solidify their plans. Student involvement is an important factor playing into this architectural team’s mission.

At the Oglesby Union Redevelopment Workshop, held on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, developers shared what they had in mind for the new union and then asked students to give their input. In the presentation, the architects shared that there are many questions still unanswered. Among those questions are what the new Union’s role should be on campus, how it can be changed to suit the needs of as many student organizations as possible and how to get students to come and stay at the Union.

The current Union is a place to get things done, then simply go to class. There is a great lack of socialization and interacting going on. The architects want to shift the present function of the Union to a more welcoming and social atmosphere. Student unions across the country are becoming places of intersection for students from all over campus to connect with each other. Workshop Architects have worked on several student unions on many campuses including: University of Wisconsin – Madison, Oklahoma State Universityand University of Michigan. Each time, their goal has been to create environments for social interaction and creative expression, according to the workshop session on Wednesday.

Students attending the session on Wednesday had many strong opinions to offer the architects. Reine Thormodson, Senior, shared that her dance organization “can’t dance there [in the Union dance studio] this semester because all of the spots were filled up.” Another student, Chandler Reeder, Senior, with Club Downunder said, “if Club Downunder had a more modern outside, people would come more often.” These are just a few of the many students who shared their desire for more accessible and accommodating space for student organizations to utilize. Another concern expressed was the lack of enjoyable dining in the Union. Students want a more comfortable space to sit down with their food and friends. They also expressed that they would prefer more desirable food options.

As thrilling as it is to potentially have a modern and updated union, there is some concern regarding construction and how it will impact the staff who presently work at the union. “This is an extremely exciting project that will better serve the community, but an additional layer of tasks will be placed on those who work in the Union,” said Associate Director of Guest Services, Trinity Gonzalez. Gonzalez has been through other student union remodels and shared that she will have to help organize focus groups, provide feedback to developers and think about relocation for the various services inside the Union, such as where to move the student post office boxes.

Reservations Coordinator, Will Thomas, shares that he is concerned about where he will be able to do his job and if he will even have a job to do during the construction. Thomas is in charge of reserving the many spaces available to student organizations, and he may not have spaces to reserve while this project is under way. His office is also located at the heart of the Union, where the main construction will be taking place. “We are concerned about how it is going to affect us and how long it is going to take,” Thomas states. The goal for the architectural team is to have this huge project completed by August of 2020, but plans could be delayed for any number of reasons. Eventually the union will be replaced in its entirety, but this will happen over a period of several years in many phases. Hopefully the developers can deliver exactly what the students want while also minimizing the negative impact the physical project can have on the university.