University looks to make things stick at new student union

11/16/2007 8:00:00 AM

Things are getting sticky on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.

And President Milton Glick wouldn't have it any other way as the opening of the Joe Crowley Student Union has grabbed the attention of the campus in recent days.

"The Joe Crowley Student Union programming will create a sticky campus, where students spend more time on campus," Glick said. "Greater engagement leads to student success. Lectures and performances there will result in greater engagement and learning.

"You don't just learn in the classroom."

Kai Mahler, a 20-year-old pre-business major, couldn't agree more.

She was one of many students who had wandered into the new union's Starbucks that had opened prior to the 167,000-square-foot building's official grand opening.

"This is a really cool building," she said while sitting in the ground-floor store, sipping a vanilla latte. "What I like about it is it's so inviting—the windows are large, there's sunlight, it's warm and intimate. I can really imagine spending a lot of time here with my friends."

Shannon Ellis, vice president for student services, called the new building "the central point" for student activity.

"It's going to be the introduction of more of a 24-7 atmosphere on campus," Ellis said. "We've tended to turn out the lights and shut things down at 10 o'clock at night, and on the weekends. This union will be about blazing lights well into what are more normal student hours—midnight—and weekends and evenings.

"It really is going to be a central point for student activity. (Union Director) Chuck (Price) talks about the new union being the heart of the campus."

Associated Students of the University of Nevada President Sarah Ragsdale said that with the opening of the Crowley Union, the campus will hold more allure to students as well as visitors.

Typically, she said, most individuals simply drive by the campus on Virginia Street without noticing what the university has to offer.

"A lot of people who live in Reno basically know the 'Virginia' face of our campus," she said. "All you have to do is go 300 yards in, and you're in a completely different world."

With good programming and careful analysis on how to continue to make the campus more "walker friendly," Glick said he hopes the University can become more of a destination for the community, as well as the institution's growing student population.

Ellis agreed.

"Ultimately, the new union gives us an opportunity to rethink our campus and how we navigate it," she said. "The No. 1 comment when we recruit, whether it's students, faculty or staff, is what a beautiful campus we have. We want to keep that look and feel. Our students tell us all the time that they come here because our campus looks and feels like a real college campus."

Mahler, who is from Las Vegas and enrolled at Nevada two years ago, said she has sensed that in that time, the campus has become much more "sticky," giving students more motivation to spend more time studying on campus, socializing on campus, or simply, in her words, "vegging out on campus."

"We can get so busy, and it would be easy to disappear from campus once our classes our done," she said. "But the University keeps making it harder for students to do that. There are a lot of very good reasons to stay on campus now, from the food to the Starbucks to the movies that they'll be showing in the union.

"It's a friendly place to begin with, and it seems like everything has gotten even more friendly."

And it's not just the 20-year-old sophomores who feel that the campus has gotten a hold on them.

Rebecca Bevans, a doctoral degree candidate in the Department of Psychology and president of the Graduate Student Association, noted that opportunities for graduate students to "network" have grown in recent years.

"Graduate students are unique because they are the ones who often teach the undergraduate students," said Bevans, who in addition to her graduate student duties and studies is married, a stepmother to two teenagers and mother to a 2-year-old son. "So they need a place where they can do lesson plans, or do other things related to their teaching as well as their own study load.

"In the new union will be a graduate student lounge, that's kind of set up as a living room, family room, dining room. We did this on purpose, so there will be a table where everybody can sit around and talk or eat. You can sit by yourself, or you can study in a group of people, or simply talk.

"Having one specific location in the new union will really help foster that sense of community. There's about 3,200 (graduate students) on campus, and it's important that our students feel a part of this community."


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