Campus Crossroads

The CI Community Celebrates a New Student Union

New student union ribbon-cutting ceremony

By Lori Putnam

Four years ago the students of Channel Islands did something extraordinary: they approved an increase in student fees to fund a new Student Union that would be completed most likely after they graduated. That student referendum, approved by 73 percent of the voting student body, put into motion a collaborative partnership among students, staff, and faculty.

“We saw the future need and determined to create a legacy that would impact the CI community for years to come,” said Jessica LaRoe, one of a number of former student leaders who attended a ribbon cutting ceremony held on campus on March 18. LaRoe, who served as the student government president in 2006, was instrumental in securing the Union’s location in what was formerly the University library on the campus mall.

Calling the opening of the Student Union a milestone in the life of the campus, President Richard R. Rush acknowledged the key role students played in its construction. “The building is clearly the work of the students,” said President Rush. “It is a student-driven, student-celebrated building.”

Construction of the nearly 25,000-square-foot building started in the summer of 2008. Sustainability was a priority, resulting in the re-use of a large portion of the existing structure. Of the portion that was demolished, the University was able to recycle 540 tons of concrete and 42 tons of steel. The exterior reflects the Mission style architecture common to campus. The interior features such green technology as lighting control systems that turn off automatically when rooms are empty and sustainable floor finishes such as sealed, polished concrete and recycled carpet.

Associate Vice President for Operations, Planning and Construction Deborah Wylie, whose team led the design and construction process, emphasized the importance of the Student Union’s location. “The layout of the building, the way it sits on campus with a patio in the back and a breezeway between the two structures really makes it a crossroads for the University,” she said. “It provides a central focus for the students.”

The Student Union includes a large dining area that features a coffee house, the Freudian Sip, and a deli, the Lighthouse Cafe. Glass doors lead out from the dining room to an outdoor patio dubbed the “Tree House Courtyard” in recognition of the more than dozen mature sycamore and pepper trees that were preserved as part of the building’s construction and which now shade the south face of the building.

A breezeway connects the dining area to a small reception area and expansive student lounge. Oversized booths line one side of the lounge while a long conference room borders the other side. An adjoining game room with flat screen TVs, pool tables, and a convenience store gives students additional areas to meet and socialize.

Student organizations, including the Associated Students Incorporated (ASI) offices for student government, are also located in the Student Union. “I’m so excited that our new office is here,” said Elysse Farnell, editor-in-chief of the campus yearbook, The Nautical.  “Now that we are at the center of campus, we can really interact with students.”

According to Genevieve Evans Taylor, executive director for the ASI, the stated purpose of the Student Union is to foster community and enhance student learning and development of the University campus through services and programming. “The name ‘union’ is no accident,” she said.

What’s more, the development of the Student Union offers a valuable lesson to the students who dedicated their time and talents to the project. “I learned that when you get a group of people together who have passion to make something happen, no project is too big,” observed LaRoe.