Volume 79 | Issue 5
September 2011

Webster University, University Center

Webster University
Four-year, private, suburban
Full-time enrollment: 8,100
Location: St. Louis

University Center
Director: John Ginsburg
Size: 42,000 sq. ft.
Floors: 2
Year built: 1992
Annual budget: $220,000
Student staff: 45 (part-time)
Nonstudent staff: 3 (full-time); 2 (part-time)

Webster University broke ground on the University Center in 1990, the year of the institution’s 75th anniversary. It is said, according to Director John Ginsburg, that the building’s address—175 Edgar Road—was determined to correlate with this momentous occasion.

The facility officially opened in 1992. Among its new offerings to the student body was a swimming pool.

“At the opening night of the facility, the then-dean of students was thrown in the swimming pool in his suit and tie as the first person to go in,” Ginsburg said. “Because things had been so down to the wire with the opening, the heater had not kicked in yet. He still laughs about this.”

Since its memorable opening, the University Center has undergone a few changes, including the renovation of the dining area in 2006. During this time, the dining area was renamed to Crossroads, “as a play on the use of street combinations to name things on campus such as the school mascot, which is the Gorlok—a combination of two main campus roads, Gore and Lockwood. The name is also a tip to the international aspect of our campus.”

Unique features
The union’s most notable feature is the series of flags hanging in The Commons, which represent the home countries of all Webster University students, including those on international campuses.

“There are about 162 flags currently, and these are changed out once a year,” Ginsburg said. “People unfamiliar with our building refer to our facility as ‘the building with the flags in it.’ This is also a popular spot for photos of visiting and graduating students.”

As mentioned previously, the University Center also boasts a swimming pool; and since the athletics department is housed in the center, there is a fitness center, courts, health classes, and recreational activities.

Students’ role
“[Students] play a critical role,” Ginsburg said. “We have so many student employees and so few full-time staff.”

The University Center has four student employee units: student building managers, fitness center attendants, pool lifeguards, and campus activities program managers.

“We switched to [an employment model for program managers] just more than 10 years ago from a programming board because the board was not being held accountable and often overlapped in other areas of the department,” Ginsburg said. “Turning to an employment model has been one of our greatest improvements and resulted in much stronger programs and a better experience for the program managers.”

The University Center has hosted performances by GirlTalk, The Roots, and Lupe Fiasco, among others. Also, the annual Homecoming Carnival offers big rides, such as a ferris wheel on which riders get a birds-eye view of campus, in the union’s parking lot and a students-versus-alumni flag football game.

A noteworthy program is The Delegates’ Agenda.

“This is an award-winning student advocacy program in which student leaders give professional-style presentations to the university administration and fellow students, representing the top concerns of the student body,” Ginsburg said.