Tuesday, January 16, 2018

$21.7M student union officially opens at UIS

As hundreds of people gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sunday at University of Illinois Springfield’s new student union, Dominic Chiappano and his friends parked themselves in front of a large, flat-screen television on the first floor to watch the NFL playoffs. 

Before the new 52,028-square-foot building opened, the UIS senior said, there wasn’t a place on campus he and his friends wanted to hang out at. That changed Sunday.

“This place is a perfect getaway,” Chiappano said. “I’m definitely going to spend more time here.” 

After more than a year and a half of construction for the $21.7 million project, the student union at UIS is officially open for students, who return to class from winter break Tuesday.

University officials say the building will serve as a social hub for student life, foster a greater sense of community and help with recruitment efforts.

The two-story building anchors the campus’s south quad, providing campus dining services, a Starbucks coffee shop, a ballroom with seating for up to 450 people and a Student Leadership Center that houses student government, volunteer offices and workspaces for student organizations.

Fee increases approved by a student vote in 2012 and other funds are paying $13.75 million, while a fundraising campaign continues toward $8 million in private donations.

UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said approximately $6.25 million in private funds has been raised toward the $8 million goal.

Koch said Sunday she struggled to put into words how excited she was this day finally came, noting talks of adding a student union have been ongoing for nearly a decade. Now that the building is here, she added, she believes it will enrich the entire academic community on campus and the larger Springfield community in ways she hasn’t yet imagined.

“This is a wonderful next step in the evolution of this very young campus and is going to make a huge difference in the life of this campus,” Koch said.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 14, 2018.

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