Renovations planned for the Student Union at The University of Texas-Pan American mean soon students will no longer have to "sweat" the problem of finding a shaded spot to sit outside under the blazing South Texas sun or a meeting room for their organization to gather, or locating a table inside to eat.
The construction of canopies at the Student Union is now under way at the east and south patios, with plans for additional canopies to be constructed throughout the University to provide shady areas for students to sit, rest and eat.
"With the canopies our patios will be more functional," said Edna Zambrano, student union director. "Students tell me they would sit outside if there was shade, so with canopies the patios can be utilized a lot more."
"The canopies should be completed by mid-October, but until then there will be areas blocked off and exposed columns, so we want to remind our students to be aware and avoid construction areas for their safety," Zambrano said.
However, these are not the only changes under consideration for the Student Union. Beginning this fall, a professional construction firm will be hired to conduct an expansion study to assess the building, traffic patterns and square footage. The firm will also administer student satisfaction surveys and obtain input from faculty and staff.
"This Student Union was first constructed for a student population of 12,000, but now with 18,000 students, 170 organizations and an average of 120 student activities a year, we are in need of more food court space, meeting space, common space and another ballroom," Zambrano said.
The expansion study should be completed by spring 2010 and a proposal will be created. At that time there will be a referendum called for the student body to vote yes or no on the expansion proposal.
"The referendum will be decided by the students because they must vote for the expansion, plus an increased student union fee to help with construction costs," Zambrano said.
The cost of construction and the student union fee will be determined once the study is complete.
The Student Union staff will host student focus groups to discuss resources that could be included in the newly refurbished facility. New resources could possibly include offering different food options in the union such as, Panda Express, a post office, or other services students feel are important. Zambrano said the goal of the focus groups is to generate excitement among students by presenting what other student unions have that UTPA's could have also.
Zambrano said, in addition to the new services, there are existing plans of combining departments and organizations within the Student Union including the Office of Student Development, Student Government Association, Student Leadership and Transition Services, Student Leadership Program, student ambassadors, alcohol and drug abuse programs, Residence Life and University Program Board.
"We hope to make it a centralized, one-stop shop for student life needs," Zambrano said.
There are also plans on constructing student organization suites with cubicles, lockers, storage space and conference rooms.
"The expansion will benefit the University as a whole, with opportunities of hosting large scale events, student organization conferences, and departmental workshops for faculty and staff," Zambrano said. "Giving these types of opportunities is important for the academic growth and collaboration of our university."
Zambrano would like to remind students that the Student Union is the living room of the University. So she asks that students pay close attention to the surveys.
"The expansion can't happen without the students, so it's very important that they participate in the process," she said.
If you have questions or would like more information about the Student Union, call 956/316-7989.