Posted August 22, 2011 by Elizabeth Stringer, Justin Rudisille, and Gillian Thiebe 

ACUI Campus Tour Day Four: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

And let day four begin! We departed our hotel early this morning to work our way to the University of North Carolina–Charlotte. As we approached campus, there was no question about how to get to the Student Union.

We met with Director Jerry Mann for a tour, who was joined by staff members Neal Miller and Judith Rowles. First opening at the start of the school year in 2009, the Student Union has become the true center of campus, with traffic entering the building from residences, academic spaces, and other thoroughfares. It includes a good balance of spaces for retail/services and more adaptable and open spaces for community and programming. A few of its unique features include:

  • A three-story rotunda-style atrium with lounge spaces allowing students and visitors to see what is happening
  • With a growing campus and evolving needs, spaces are frequently being converted from storage closets to offices to support new staffing needs
  • Sustainable features such as water bottle refill stations, a food pulper to reduce liquid waste, and waterless urinals that each save about 22,000 gallons of water a year
  • The all-you-care-to-eat Crown Commons with a variety of stations and food styles that serves as one of the primary dining options campus wide

The official Week of Welcome (WOW!) activities on campus are coordinated by the office of the dean, though the Student Union and activities serve a significant role in supporting the programs. The Campus Activities Board planned a range of social and entertainment programs, and the Niners on the Weekend (NOW) organization was gearing up for their "Union Take Over" next weekend. Likewise, we were there to watch the building open at 9 a.m. on the Sunday before classes started, and by the time we left at 10 a.m., students had already taken over much of the lounge space to socialize and read, which is a statement to the role of the Student Union in acclimating students at the start of the new academic year.

Thank you to Jerry, Neil, and Judith for a great tour of a new facility.

From Charlotte, we drove to to Raleigh, home to North Carolina State University, where we met Rick Gardner, TJ Willis, Dan Adams, Tim Hogan, and Jonathan Smith. NC State has had six unions in its history, four of which are currently being used, one that was the original and no longer in use, and one located in Harrelson Hall that is serving as a temporary facility during a renovation project. Last week, the university broke ground on a renovation and expansion project on the Talley Student Center. It was really fun to see the models of the future building and hear first-hand from a student leader how the current space will be transformed to meet student needs.

The Talley Student Center currently serves as the main union on campus, and its usage will only increase after the renovation is complete. Unique features of this and the other student center facilities include:

  • The Student Center has four areas of focus: arts, campus enterprises, diversity, and programs and activities
  • Student art is displayed throughout the buildings and one facility offers everything from a crafts center with everything from a clay studio to a wood work shop where we saw a student making a guitar
  • Marketing and communication for the renovation project has kept the campus updated, including emails about changes in traffic patterns and webcams that offer a live feed of the progress
  • Though not part of these buildings, the campus features a Free Expression Tunnel where students are able to express themselves through graffiti art

The Wolfpack Welcome Week events had just concluded the day prior to our visit. One large program organized by the Union Activities Board is Wolfstock, a large concert for more than 5,000 students. Other events included cookouts, dances, and a RecFest.

Thanks to the whole crew from NC State that took the time to show us not only the student centers, but also other campus highlights.

From here, we hit our next stop on The Research Triangle: Duke University. David Pittman gave us a tour of the Bryan University Center and surrounding areas. Features included:

  • The Plaza outside the building serves as a popular programming space for larger events as the union does not have a large indoor venue
  • The Duke Innovative Design Agency, part of the Office of Student Activities and Facilities (OSAF), is a student-run marketing group
  • In addition to the traditional food court area, just outside the Bryan University Center food carts offer on-the-go options for students

In previous years, welcome week activities were coordinated by individual residence halls. This is the first year that the OSAF will centrally plan activities, which include a dance and an ice cream social. Also, the Duke Chapel, located next to the Bryan University Center, hosts several orientation events, including an annual speech by Maya Angelou.

Thank you, David, for spending some time with us today discussing the current state of the union and future plans.

Today was the first of two four-stop days. Our final location was the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for their Fall Fest. We were greeted by Don Luse as he assisted in setting up the large, annual event; he was able to start our tour of the Carolina Union, but duty called and Grace Peter, a campus student leader, took over. Interesting features include:

  • The old union and newer addition are connected via a skywalk; the walkway beneath is comprised of bricks that create the largest Native American art piece in the state
  • Art was a large feature of the building, with several commissioned pieces designed to perfectly fill a niche
  • Nooks and crannies in the building offer ample quite space for studying or reflection

Our tour also included a chance to see some traditions, such as the Old Well, from which students drink prior to classes each semester to achieve a 4.0, and the Davey Tree, which is said to be the place that a student tied his horse and claimed that the university would be successful as long as this tree was alive.

After our tour, we headed to Fall Fest. Featuring more than 200 student organization, athletics, and vendor tables, as well as free food, entertainment (provided by student talent), and activities, the event draws more than 20,000 students. This is the kick off to Welcome Week at the university; events later in the week will include a dance, Taste of Franklin Street, and a summer reading discussion and lecture program.

Don, we appreciate you fitting us into your busy schedule and letting us witness this amazing event; and also a big thanks to Grace for spending a few hours showing us around and sharing her student perspective.

We would like to end with an overall statement of appreciation to all of the ACUI members who took time out of their Sundays to make special trips to campus in the midst of a hectic few weeks to spend time with us. It was truly a pleasure to learn more about you and what you do.

Campus Tour 2011 


Elizabeth Stringer

Elizabeth Stringer is the Senior Manager of Marketing & Communication at ACUI.

Justin Rudisille

Justin Rudisille is the Director of Volunteer & Member Engagement at ACUI.

Justin coordinates the recruitment, training, and recognition initiatives for volunteers at all levels, as well as oversees research initiatives. He liaises with ACUI’s regions, the Volunteer Development Team, the Research Program Team, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, the College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) evaluation program, and the awards and scholarships programs.

Gillian Thiebe

Gillian Thiebe is the SUNAPSIS Business Manager at Indiana University–Bloomington.


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