Volume 84 | Issue 5
September/October 2016

Union Spotlight: Central Washington University

Submitted by: Lola GallagherEntrance to CWU Student Union and Recreation Center

Central Washington University

Four-year, Public, Rural
Full-Time Enrollment: 10,000+
Location: Ellensburg, Wash.

Student Union and Recreation Center

Student Union Director: Cherie Wilson
Director of Recreation: Rusty Vineyard
Size: 228,000 sq. ft.
Floors: 3
Year Built: 2006
Student Staff: 650+ multiple volunteer, internship, practicum, and grad students
Nonstudent Staff: 95 full-time

Founded in 1891, Central Washington University’s Ellensburg campus is nestled between the Cascade Mountains and Columbia River. Following a 15-year collaborative effort by multiple campus partners and student leaders, a brand new Student Union and Recreation Center opened in 2006. The fusion facility, the first of its kind in the country, combined a student union, recreation center, campus bookstore, and residential dining right in the heart of campus.

While celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the Student Union and Recreation Center is also looking to the future. Growing enrollment, increasing programs, and new opportunities for student engagement outside the classroom will help guide expansion discussions.

Unique Features
The architectural style is reminiscent of a grand lodge, with contemporary lines and finishes throughout. Recreation boasts an elevated track that looks down on four courts, a 50-foot-high climbing wall, and spaces for fitness, weight training, and cardio. All four partner areas have undergone remodels in the past several years, including customer service and retail areas in the Recreation Center and Wildcat Shop (bookstore), a major ballroom lighting project, and a refresh of the main dining room layout and concepts.

Students’ Role
The four facility partners—Student Union, Recreation, Dining Services, and Wildcat Shop—operate through funding from student fees and revenue programs. Students have a strong presence in the everyday decision making and operations of the facility through student government and committees, four student advisory boards, and student employees. “Student staff members learn and enhance their skills in facility and event management, including program planning, coordination and promotion, building security and management, and technical light, sound, and venue setups,” said Cherie Wilson, Student Union director. “After business hours and on the weekends, the building is run primarily by students.”

The Student Union and Recreation Center is a gathering place for students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors and home to many student programming and service areas as well as student government. As the starting point for campus tours and orientations, the facility is a natural home base for new students. “Lounge, study, programming, and meeting spaces are heavily utilized at all hours,” said Wilson. “Building entries average 12,000–15,000 per day during the academic year.”

A diverse student body expects variety in social, cultural, educational, and recreational programs, and the programming areas in this facility deliver. Students drive the programmatic direction for many large-scale special events as well as small to medium programs that appeal to a wide range of audiences and interests. Past performers and speakers include Macklemore, Talib Kweli, Laverne Cox, and Salman Rushdie, just to name a few. Nearly 150 active student clubs and organizations add to the robust activity in and around the facility, and more than 2,500 student volunteers are involved annually in community engagement programs.