Posted August 23, 2011 by Elizabeth Stringer, Justin Rudisille, and Gillian Thiebe 

ACUI Campus Tour Day Six: Chasing Pavements

We survived our trek down the mountain from Appalachian State last night and made our way to the University of Tennessee this morning. We were greeted by Amy Anderson, then met up with Director Jim Dittrich and Mark Rozanski. Jim shared some of the University Center's history, strengths, and challenge, and he filled us in on an upcoming construction and expansion project that will tear down the the current structure to make way for a brand new building in a series of phases. 

Welcome Week had concluded, but Ashleigh Moyer and Phillip Smith from the Office of Student Activities, which is housed in the building and serves as the coordination point for the overall week of campus events, provided us with details. Some activities included Night in Neyland, a dance, and a service project. Ashleigh asserted that Welcome Week activities were all based on the idea of getting students to interact with one another. And of course, several of these and other orientation activities take place in the University Center.

Brian Rodgers joined Amy to take us in a tour of the facility. Some stand out features include:

  • The Down Under recreation center offers bowling, billiards, a gaming lounge, and more
  • A Sweet Shop is located by a high-traffic stairwell and is a quick place for students to grab a snack or drink
  • On one floor, one wing was dedicated to space for volunteer and service activities for students and the other wing was for student activities and programming

Though it was fairly early in the day, the University Center was bustling and that was great to see. Thanks to Amy, Jim, Brian, and Mark as well as Ashleigh and Phillip for taking some time to share such great information with us today.

Next, we headed north to the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Here, we met with Director John Herbst and Ashley Casteel. A Student Center renovation is currently being planned. Originally opened in 1938, the center has several unique features:

  • The building was designed by students; some of the original ideas are still visible today, and the tradition continues with smaller elements, such as a chandelier, created by students for the building
  • The Worsham Theater was recently renovated to offer surround sound and high definition movies
  • The Cat's Den recreation area is often filled with students playing billiards, gaming, or playing table tennis and is located in an open area

K-Week was well underway during our visit. The "We are UK" event was kicking off, and students were lined down the street to get free food, find information on student activities, and watch student talent, such as stepping and singing, in the outdoor amphitheater. During K-Week, the Student Center is packed with events. John believed that K-Week is a chance for the students to get to know the building and realize that it can be their "home away from home."

John and Ashley, you were great hosts, and we were thrilled to be able to see the "We are UK" event. Thank you so much.

Our final stop for the day, and No. 19 overall, was Northern Kentucky University. This evening, a few welcome week events were happening in and around the Student Union. The ballroom was packed with more than 700 students watching a hypnotist. A primarily commuter campus, it was nice to see that so many students were taking advantage of programming in the building.

Director Sarah Aikman took us on a tour of the union, opened in 2008. Some key features included:

  • Newly installed cell phone recharging stations
  • The Northern Fare Food Court offers a variety of eateries and seats more than 700 students; this speaks to the nature of the commuter campus as students need more space in the building for time on campus between classes
  • Chairs located in the games room and the multipurpose room were painted by student organizations as a marketing opportunity for their club

We also toured the old facility, the University Center, which still houses some offices and provides additional programming space.

With around 90 percent of NKU students being commuters, providing a space for relaxing, studying, and eating is a must when the only other option they may have is to go sit in their car. Likewise, by holding orientation and welcome week activities in the union, these commuter students are better acclimated to the space and tend to utilize it as a center for finding information. The programs planned by the Activities Programming Board and those held in the union are vital to bringing students into the the living room of the Northern Kentucky University campus.

We appreciate you spending some of your evening with us, Sarah.

Tomorrow we are headed back to Indiana and our final scheduled stop. It has been quite the week and experience.


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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