Video: Take a look inside the new Student Union

The $64.2 million project was completed in February


Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

By Matt Berg and Nina Walat

Following construction that lasted more than two years, the Student Union will soon be open to the University of Massachusetts community once again.

The building, which was built in 1957 and closed in January 2019 for renovations, was opened to students for the first time at the beginning of the spring semester. Though the building is currently closed due to “Elevated” risk posture, the University will allow a limited number of occupants as risk levels lower.

“I think this has just been such a long time coming,” said Sonya Epstein, the president of the Student Government Association. “This whole process started long before I was even here, so it’s great to see so many generations of work from the SGA from various student leaders come to light and finally be done.”

Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

The $64.2 million project overhauled the old building, modernizing the inside and outside. On the exterior, the front entrance boasts new doors and windows, while the glass-walled ballroom facing the Campus Center provides a picturesque scene for those walking by.

Over two dozen student groups will find new homes in the Student Union, including the SGA, the Daily Collegian, WMUA, Earth Foods, People’s Market, the Bike Co-op, the Muslim Student Association and Student Bridges.

“The new Student Union is the centerpiece of the recently transformed center of campus,” said Ed Blaguszewski, a campus spokesperson. “In time, this beautiful new facility will become the student living room of the campus, a space where our community can gather formally and informally to enrich student life.”

Along with the renovated ballroom and new spaces for student groups, the building offers communal spaces for students to do homework or hangout with friends, a black box theater for events and meeting rooms for registered student organizations.

McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

The Student Union renovation was partially funded by a $100 increase in the student activities fee approved in 2017 that will account for $25 million, according to school officials.

Since students helped fund the building, it was crucial to make the space student-focused, Epstein said.

A Student Union management board, composed mostly of students, is in charge of policy decisions and any changes that happen to the building, according to Epstein, who is a co-chair of the management board. The SGA is responsible for managing the meeting rooms.

“Everything that’s in here is about students. All of the agencies are basically run by students — they have their directors and everything — but the students are making the key decisions, and the student businesses are completely run by students,” Epstein said.

The completion of the Student Union complements two other large projects at the school: a new Worcester Dining Commons and landscape renovations across campus, totaling $99.8 million.

“These long-planned projects are now coming to fruition, and they are going to markedly improve the student experience at UMass Amherst,” said Shane Conklin, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services, in a statement.

Matt Berg can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.

Nina Walat can be reached at [email protected]