Volume 77 | Issue 1
January 2009

Union Spotlight: University of Rhode Island, URI Memorial Union




University of Rhode Island
URI Memorial Union


University of Rhode Island
Four-year, public, rural
Full-time enrollment: 14,000
Location: Kingston, R.I.

URI Memorial Union
Director: Bruce Hamilton
Size: 130,000 sq. ft.
Floors: 3
Year built: 1954
Annual budget: $4 million
Student staff:
75 (part-time)
Nonstudent staff:
35 (full-time);
3 (part-time)
Website: http://www.mu.uri.edu

The University of Rhode Island’s Memorial Union originally began as a memorial for members of the community who had died in World War II and the Korean War. Before establishing a permanent location in 1954 the union was housed in Quonset Huts as well as a fraternity house. In 1980 the departments of the Memorial Union and the Student Activities were joined under one director.

In 1992, the building underwent a 20,000 square feet expansion and hopes to undergo another addition of about the same proportions soon, according to director Bruce Hamilton.

Unique features
Hamilton said the union is the center of the URI society.

“We are known as the ‘Heart of Campus’ and for getting the answer for our community,” Hamilton said. In addition to being the place to go for information, the union offers a variety of opportunities for students for students who need to fill some spare time. The URI Northwoods Challenge Course is located less than one fourth of a mile from campus and is open to all students for free. The union also offers a ballroom, the Rams Den Cafeteria, and other varieties of shops and lounges.

URI’s Center for Student Leadership Development is housed in the union as well. The center offers a minor in Leadership Studies.

Students’ role
URI students have a large role in the union’s direction.

“The Memorial Union Board of Directors is made up of undergraduate students who are responsible for the input of the student body into the programming in the union and the budget or fees,” Hamilton said. The board also weighs in on any plans for renovation and allocates all of the student organization space each school year.

In addition to the Memorial Union Board of Directors, undergraduates also serve as student managers for the union.

“Our student managers play a major role in managing the union particularly at night and on the weekend. They are a critical piece of the team that runs the union,” Hamilton said.

The union offers a wide variety of student programming including play performances, musical artists and, student tours.

“We have had Jay Leno, Bill Cosby, James Taylor, Ludacris, No Doubt, Maya Angelou, Adam Sandler, and a number of other artists,” Hamilton said. The union also has hosted student events such as fashion shows, dance shows, and a boxing competition with a full boxing ring set up in the ballroom.

The union also offers what are called Ram Tours for students. The tours are fairly inexpensive and let students explore different cities. Many tours allow undergraduates to travel the 160 miles to New York City to see Broadway musicals. The trips are usually no more than a day long.