Student center

Student center

Student Activity Center on the campus of Texas Tech University

A student center is a type of building found on university campuses. In the United States, such a building may be called a student union, student commons, union or student center. The term "student union" refers most often in the United States to a building, while in other nations a "students' union" is the student government.

The first student union built at a public university in the United States was the Ohio Union (1910) at the Ohio State University.[1] The largest student union is at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma.[2]


  • History 1
  • Purpose 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4


The first student union in America was Houston Hall, at the University of Pennsylvania, which opened January 2, 1896[3] and remains in operation to this day. Oklahoma State University's student center opened in 1950. Subsequent additions, and renovations in 2010, have made the building one of the largest student activity centers in the world at 611,000 sq ft (56,800 m2).[4] The first Ohio Union at Ohio State University was Enarson Hall. The building opened in 1911 and was the first student union to be built at a state university and the fourth of its kind in the United States.[5]

Some student centers carry unique origins and historical significance with some on the National Register of Historic Places. The William Pitt Union was originally constructed in 1898 as a hotel and was converted into a student center in 1956.[6] Some student activity centers on the NRHP include O'Hara Student Center (University of Pittsburgh), McKenny Hall (Eastern Michigan University), and the Tivoli Student Union.[7][8] The Tivoli Student Union was originally home to the Trevoli Brewing Company but since has been converted to serve several institutions in Denver, Colorado.[9]

The Association of College Unions International is one of the oldest associations in higher education, and dates back to 1914.[10] This association is the largest organization that represent student activity centers and student unions in the United States. As of today the organization has 522 member institutions.[10]

In 2007, The University of Vermont's student center became the first LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.[11][12]

Other examples of student centers include West Virginia University's Mountainlair, the J. Wayne Reitz Union at the University of Florida, the Bronco Student Center at Cal Poly Pomona, the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the Price Center at UC San Diego.


Broadly speaking, the facility is devoted to student recreation and socialization. A student center or student union is the community center of the college, serving students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests. A student activity center might offer a variety of programs, activities, services, and facilities.[13]

It may contain lounges, wellness centers, dining facilities or vendors, and entertainment venues. The student center is often the center of Michigan Union, which hosts the University of Michigan Model United Nations conference.

Depending on the school and its location it might have unique amenities such as a bowling alley, cultural or prayer rooms and unique services. At Eastern Michigan University Student Center the building offers a Kiva Room. A Kiva Room, is a round, 360-degree room patterned after spaces used in Native American cultures.[14] The Kiva Room is used as a meeting space, for collaboration, or for musical purposes.[15] In the Ohio State University-Ohio Union, the student union offers an interfaith prayer room which has feet washing area for Muslim students.[16] The University of Central Florida has an eyewear and optometric consumer service location.[17]

See also


  1. ^ "The Ohio Union at Ohio State University". Retrieved 2015-10-08. 
  2. ^ ANSTHE, Oklahoma State University, retrieved April 23, 2006
  3. ^ Building America's First University: An Historical and Architectural Guide to the University of Pennsylvania George E. Thomas, David Bruce Brownlee, p3
  4. ^ "OSU Student Union Building History". September 9, 1950. Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  5. ^ "What was the first student union". What was the first student union. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Oakland Civic Center City Designated Historic District" (PDF). City of Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  8. ^ German, Pamela; Robinson, Veronica (Spring 2009), "Charles McKenny Union: An EMU Icon" (PDF), Ypsilanti Gleanings ( 
  9. ^ [2] $20 Million Makeover For Denver's Historic Tivoli's Student Union
  10. ^ a b "ACUI history". ACUI history. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Vermont opens Green Student union". Vermont opens Green Student union. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "Vermont Student union opens". Vermont Student union opens. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  13. ^ "Association of College Unions International defines union". Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  14. ^ "New EMU Student Center celebrates grand opening". Focus EMU Online. Eastern Michigan University. 2006-11-07. Retrieved 2011-06-14. 
  15. ^ "EMU student Center kiva room". EMU student Center kiva room. Retrieved 23 June 2011. 
  16. ^ "OSU Ohio Union interfaith prayer room". OSU Ohio Union interfaith prayer room. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  17. ^ "UCF College optics". Retrieved 21 March 2012.