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University Center ready for students’ return

December 14, 2006

The Student Center is soon to be obsolete. And with the new University Center’s imminent opening, the buzz around campus is not limited to students.

While Dale Braun was done with his work on the University Center two years ago, his enthusiasm for the project has not stopped.

The UW-River Falls campus planner said the bigger and better building will do more than provide students a place to eat, hang out and study.

“It is really going to do what a student center should do,” Braun said, adding the University Center will provide a place where “students can be students, faculty can be faculty and people can be people.”

By offering spaces such as a cyber café, entertainment complex, involvement center, lounge areas and meeting rooms, the buzz about the University Center has UWRF students such as Cassie Beck, Kaylyn Hum and Jordan Thomas eagerly anticipating the day the building opens its doors for everyone.

“I can’t wait,” said Beck, who regularly meets Hum and Thomas in the Student Center so they can get away from small dorm rooms.

“We come here a lot,” she said. “It is a lot less cramped.”

Though the current Student Center is Beck’s escape from her dorm room, Braun said the University Center, which is “five times bigger,” will provide students with more to do.

“Right now, the Student Center is fine,” he said. “But this building is really going to hold you. The entertainment complex will have an area where bands can perform — it will be like Brandy’s, but larger. There will be a two-level game room with ping pong and pool.”

While Beck walks across campus to spend time in the Student Center, the 20-year-old sophomore and Hathorn Hall resident said she is excited about having the University Center centrally located on campus.

“It is going to be a shorter walk for me,” she said.

As director of Student Life Facilities, Mike Stifter said he thinks the location of the University Center is a benefit for UWRF students and faculty.

“Its location is ideal,” Stifter said. “From its location, programs and services, to the dedicated student and professional staff in the building, I believe it will be an absolute positive addition to the campus and surrounding community.”

With his optimistic view on the University Center, it seems Stifter shares the opinions of Braun and Chancellor Don Betz.
The campus planner said the new location will bridge the divide on the UWRF campus.

“There will no longer be an east campus versus west campus feel anymore,” Braun said. “It is truly the crossroads of the campus.”

As head of the University, Betz also has high hopes for the building that will unite the campus.

“The University Center will be the center of our university community as we reach out to serve the people of our city, our region, state and beyond,” Betz said. “My sense is that the new University Center will add to the vitality of the campus and community, and will be the site of a full spectrum of events, activities, speakers and performances that are associated with vibrant universities.”

With all the hype and promise of invigorated campus life surrounding the building, Betz said it stands up to the excitement.

“Already more than 200 events are scheduled in the first few weeks in the new University Center,” he said.

At least one of those events is being worked on by Stifter, who said a blueprint for welcoming students to the building is in the making.

“We are currently preparing plans for the week of Jan. 22 when students return for spring semester,” he said. “Details will be coming out soon.”

Stifter’s planning days do not stop there, as spring semester may also have other University Center happenings for UWRF students.

“We also hope to do some additional events throughout the spring semester,” he said.

With preparations in the works for spring activities in the new building, UWRF senior Kristen Johnson is feeling green with envy, as she will graduate before the University Center opens.

“I was just thinking about it,” the 23-year-old said, admitting she is “a little bit jealous” about not getting to use the new University Center.

Johnson said her twinge of jealousy stems from the increased food choices and one hot item in particular — “a cozy fireplace” — which will be included in the new building.

“People want to hang out instead of sitting at a table,” she said.

While Johnson may have to come back to UWRF to enjoy the University Center, Braun said he is ready to see all the hard work that was put into constructing the building pay off.

“It really is very different,” he said. “I am really looking forward to seeing students in there being who you are.”

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