USU grand opening draws students, staff

Natalie A. Cole

In 100-degree weather, students gathered in front of the Sol Center in the Plaza del Sol to see what the noise was all about. Students, faculty and staff members wore black shirts with the word MORE in white letters stamped across the front. Booths which consisted of canopied tables were dispersed throughout the University Student Union advertising upcoming campus events, promoting facilities and services that are on campus, and selling a variety of things, including posters, handmade jewelry and performance gear.

The long-awaited renovations of the USU were complete and Tuesday, Sept. 12 marked the full-day event of the grand opening celebration of the newly renovated center. Adding to the excitement were two DJs, Mario “X-Man” Prins and Ya Boy Jesse, who were visiting from the local radio station KDAY. The excitement was at an all-time high as students interacted with each other in front of the new building, the Sol Center, and the new open space, Plaza del Sol. The Sol Center resembled an art museum and the Plaza del Sol had the feel of an outdoor concert venue.

The celebration kicked off with an opening ceremony, which included speeches from various people who played a big role in the USU renovations. Debra Hammond, USU executive director, facilitated the speeches that were given by CSUN President Jolene Koester, Vice President of Student Affairs Terry Piper, and Audris Barnes, the chair of the USU board of directors.

“The USU represents a change at this school,” Koester said. “It is a place where students, faculty and staff have a place to be.”

After six years of renovation and two construction phases, the USU is finally completed. After the years of being separated from the USU there is a reunification with the students and the student union, which is often considered the center of campus activity at a college.

“The USU is a place to be and be seen,” Hammond said. “A place to be the hub of campus life.”

Piper spoke about a personal connection with the USU building and the student body to give students a new aspect on the student union.

“Today is not just about the building, it’s about you,” Piper said. “Today is about the celebration of a community.”

Students getting excited about the new USU and utilizing it presents a challenge but the board of directors are willing to put in the work to get the word out.

“Our main focus is to bring students into the union,”

Barnes said. “For that six to seven years for renovation students weren’t here.”

When the speeches were completed both Barnes and Hammond pulled the white ribbon placed in front of the podium, which was immediately followed by the release of red and silver streamers.

After the ribbon was pulled and the speeches were given, the DJs from KDAY started playing music as students wandered to the different booths around the USU. Others chose to get in line for the food, which was free. The USU was filled with smiles, laughter and excitement.

“It gives a whole new atmosphere on campus,” said Jason Ingram, a junior accounting major. “This area will give an opportunity for more people to meet instead of Sierra Quad. It’s a good lounge spot.”

The USU offers a variety of places to study, eat or just relax from a hectic and stressful day of classes.

“I love the diverse people coming together to enjoy the music and the food,” said Veronica Rivera, a junior kinesiology major. “You get to meet new people. Instead of going from class to straight home, you can just chill.”

The new USU features a Freudian Sip coffee shop, a computer lab which contains 70 workstations with free printing, new space for clubs and organizations, and additional meeting and study rooms. It also includes a relocated and bigger Mercantile Exchange, an Outdoor Stage, and a TV lounge with a plasma screen. The new USU provides more job and leadership opportunities for students and venues to have more entertainment, guest speakers and outdoor concerts.

The celebration also included ongoing tours of the Sol Center, and the Matador Involvement Center had an open house. At the Grand Salon later that day the Associated Students Inauguration was held. Students were encouraged to support CSUN by cheering on the CSUN Women’s Soccer Team vs. Idaho on the Matador Soccer Field. Music was showcased throughout the day with a DJ at the Satellite Student Union and acoustic music at Freudian Sip. Evening entertainment included a comedy show, which took place at the San Fernando Valley Hall, and the celebration ended with Club Pub at the Club Sports Grill, an event that was hosted by A.S. SPACE.