Volume 80 | Issue 3
May 2012

Nebraska Unions, University of Nebraska–Lincoln


 University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Four-year, public, urban
Full-time enrollment: 24,593
Location: Lincoln, Neb.

Nebraska Unions

Charlie Francis

220,000 sq. ft.


Year built:

Annual budget:
$5.9 million

Student staff (all three facilities):
109 (part-time)

Nonstudent staff (all three facilities):
67 (full-time); 11 (part-time)


In 1930, members of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln community started calling for a union to be built.

“A dream of a few was to create a facility which was dedicated to a spirit of unity and friendship,” said Director Charlie Francis. “A facility that would favor university solidarity and loyalty, where faculty, staff, and students could come together and associate in a central meetingNebraska1 place.”

However, the Great Depression and the need for other university facilities created a lack of support for a union. In 1935, Jack Fischer, a student, once again started campaigning for a union. Funds for the building were secured through the alumni association, an increased student fee, and a grant from the Public Works Administration as part of the New Deal. The university opened the Nebraska Student Union in March 1938.

A renovation in 1958 added an outside veranda, barbershop, laundry service, billiards room, small auditorium, and bowling lanes to the building. At this time, the building was renamed to the Nebraska Union, “as it was deemed the facility was for all elements of the campus population—faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as students,” Francis said. Two more renovations were completed—1969 and 1999—to ensure the union’s offerings met the campus needs.

Additional union facilities on the campus include Nebraska East Union, built in 1977, and the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, built in 2010. 

Unique features

Just outside the Nebraska Union is Broyhill fountain.

“It offers a community gathering space,” Francis said. “Students gather to study, have lunch, or lounge on the large rocks surrounding the water feature. The fountain’s design invites people to wade into the water on a warm day.”

Another feature of the Nebraska Union is the Rotunda Gallery, which is “exhibition space for artists and educational displays,” Francis said. Similarly, the Loft Gallery in the Nebraska East Union offers exhibit space. 

Nebraska2The Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center is connected to the Nebraska Union. In addition to meeting space and computer labs, the center boasts the Kawasaki reading room, “featuring a library of Japanese literature and educational stacks,” Francis said. 

Students’ role

“Students play an active role for the Nebraska Unions as employees, members of the Nebraska Union Board, and Student Involvement members,” Francis said.

Between all three union facilities, 109 students are employed part-time.

Students are also active users of the union. A popular location is The Crib, a coffeehouse. It offers a fireplace on one end and a stage on the other as to accommodate both studying and entertaining. 


The Nebraska Union provides programming for the Big Red Welcome each year. One event, Party at the Union, “offers a midnight pancake feed; live music on the plaza; and entertainment, games, and activities throughout the building,” Francis said.

Other programs from past years include concerts, speakers, a hypnotist, movie nights, a dessert competition, and a chili cook off.
Nebraska East Union programming includes the annual Cornstock Dance, “which can trace its history back to the early days of the University Program Council’s two primary committees, the Sadie Hawkins Dance Committee and the Cornstock Committee,” Francis said.

Additionally, the Multicultural Center hosts events year round, including a week of activities to highlight multicultural awareness.