The 44,000-square-foot building, which opened in fall 2000 and is considered the “living room” of the University, has more than 4,000 individuals – students faculty, staff and the general public – walk through its doors a day said Edna Zambrano, director of the Student Union.
“Student Unions are generally considered the living rooms of the campus. Our goal is always to provide services that are convenient to students and as the living room it is also the place where families gather – whether it be in celebration of something or in mourning,” Zambrano said. “This is the place where everybody gathers kind of like in your home.”
Zambrano said the Student Union is also a place where the University community can meet for open discussions - informal or formal.
“This is the place where we want to encourage an open discussion on campus,” she said.
The Student Union has plenty to be proud of including the more than 45 free student activities offered per semester and it boasts the largest game room in the state said Zambrano. UTPA’s game room is two-stories and features seven pool tables and arcade games on the first floor and a state-of-the-art gaming lounge on the second floor.
“Our goal is to do everything free for the University community and just make sure that students have a place to relax out of the classroom,” she said.
Other noted activities the Student Union is known for is its annual Turkey Bowling event, which heads into its ninth year and raises money for Adopt-an-Angel, a program that provides financial aid during the Christmas holidays for needy students who are parents. Midnight Breakfast, another activity held every fall and spring at the end of the semesters,serves more than 800 students before finals. Also, every June and July, more than 600-800 hamburgers are given away to the University community as part of the annual luaus. The Student Union also offers leadership opportunities through its Student Union Advisory Board comprised of students, faculty and staff, who approve the facilities budget and recommend policies.
Every semester, five full-time staff and 27-30 work-studies run the Student Union.
In 2009 the Student Union started its expansion with the construction of canopies at the east and south patios to allow for more outside programming giving organizations and the Student Union additional room for events or small concerts. Zambrano said she is looking forward to the continued expansion of the facility from 44,000 to 125,000 square feet, which would require the UTPA Student Government Association to be in favor of and call for a referendum to expand and increase the Student Union fee.
“We want more students, faculty and staff to continue to use the Student Union. We always want to be the first building that visitors think about when they visit campus,” Zambrano said.
The Student Union is open seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m.