The start of a new semester at Stanislaus State is always something to celebrate, but the first day of spring classes on Monday brought a palpable sense of excitement to campus as students, faculty and staff attended the grand opening of the new University Student Center — a momentous occasion nearly a decade in the making.
“A student center is much more than a place where students can gather and faculty and staff can come to relax — it’s a very important building because it represents a successful place where many things can happen,” President Ellen Junn told hundreds of campus community members who had gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “You can extend your classroom conversations. They can overflow and emerge here in this beautiful space. It’s where team projects and social causes can be born, supported and grow. It’s where a lot of students will come to rest, relax, study, talk to each other, have fun and discover who they really are, and flourish and feel connected to the campus.”
Construction on the new, 152,432 square foot University Student Center first began 718 days before its opening, but the dream for a new student hub was originally born in 2012. Since then, several University Student Union board chairs who helped oversee its design, planning and construction have come and gone, and all were on hand to rejoice in the fruits of their labor on Monday: Natalie Dykzeul (2014-2016), Hailey Holm (2016-2017), Allysa Gonzales (2017-2019) and Jennifer Galeana-Vasquez (current).
“A big piece of being involved in this project was knowing that the Turlock community — which is where I was born and raised — would have somewhere to come and look to,” Dykzeul said. “I stand here today astounded and proud of this accomplishment that was a dream for the students, approved by the students and now available to the students.”
Made possible by the passing of a student union referendum in 2015, Dykzeul said student input was vital in determining the design, layout and features of the $52 million student center.
Warrior pride is felt throughout the new space, from massive mascot logos emblazoned upon surfaces throughout to vibrant red seating available in a variety of different styles. Students can study in various lounge areas, either in privacy-providing cubicles, futuristic chairs or bench seating, and can take in shows or presentations from bleacher-style steps which face an open area complete with a grassy knoll.
In total, there are 1,228 seats in the lounge areas and 410 in the new Warrior Grill — much to the pleasure of students like Giselle Argueta and Lesley Cantu, who commute to class from Modesto and Patterson, respectively.
“It’s really nice because now instead of having to drive home to rest, I can just stay here,” Cantu said. “It feels very comfortable here and will be a nice place to hang out. I think it will definitely bring more students together, and now students can be engaged on campus.”
“I think this is so important. We needed more spaces for students to be able to do things like their homework and studying,” Argueta added. “It gives us more of an at-home feel when we’re here now, and when a school has cool things to experience it makes it more exciting.”
Argueta and Cantu are most excited for the plethora of dining options that will soon be available, they said, including a standalone Starbucks, a Shake Smart, which offers healthy shakes, bowls, coffee and other quick bites, Chartwell’s options such as a sushi counter and Mexican food, a farm-to-fork style eatery called “Titus Grown” that will offer soups, salads and sandwiches with produce grown by students and the Warrior Grill, which features a new, state-of-the-art pizza oven and will soon sell beer and wine on campus once again.
These eateries will provide more jobs on campus once the food court is complete come late March, and so far, 40 new student assistants, 20 volunteers and an additional five professional staff have been hired throughout other departments in the new student center.
Conference rooms, a brand-new bookstore, a convenience store and even a game room also add to the student center, which Junn referred to as a “lasting monument” on the campus.
“My thanks and my admiration go to the students whose combined vision, passion and determination is the reason why we are standing here today,” she said. “It’s a monument to student life and leadership that will play such a large role in maintaining the welcoming campus atmosphere we have at Stan State.”