This summer marked the end of a decade-long wait for the new Student Union. Its crisp, white walls and gleaming glass windows welcome Ole Miss students as they walk through the heart of campus, and the excitement surrounding the new building is almost tangible.
“Coming into Ole Miss as a freshman two years ago, it made me sad that they decided to remodel the Student Union right as I came to university… However, the newly improved Student Union is everything the old Student Union gave us and so much more,” junior Brandy Truong said.
Bradley Baker, Director of the Student Union and Ole Miss alumnus, was a key player in making the union renovation possible. He has been a part of the conversation about the construction of a new Student Union since the idea’s conception in 2008; however, the project didn’t truly launch until July of 2015.
“Given that this project has taken so long to complete — not just the construction phase but from the planning and all — it can sometimes be rare that a person in the director role is there throughout the entire project,” he said. “It was something that I was very committed to. I love Ole Miss. I want to stay here. I was glad to have an impact on students that were coming in the future and those that were here now.”
Despite the lengthy process, Baker noted that his team kept one thing at the forefront of every conversation: Ole Miss students.
“Throughout the entire project, we’ve wanted to make sure students were first,” Baker said. “We had student input throughout the entire project and that’s not always the case. We wanted to make it a point that the students had a voice.”
Students helped select countless components of the new Student Union, from the plush furniture to the colored carpet. Furthermore, the union is more than just a structural facility. The Student Union houses many resources and events for students that make the Ole Miss experience worthwhile.
With three different target areas — student activities, leadership programming and student leadership management — the Student Union covers all aspects of student life. The results of these targets are platforms like Forum, where students can search for and keep up to date with registered student organizations, as well as leadership programs like MPOWER and Pulse. However, most students recognize it for the four student organizations run through the office: Associated Student Body (ASB), Student Activities Association (SAA), RebeTHON and the Ole Miss Big Event. These organizations host several student-focused events throughout the school year and serve as key organizations for student involvement on campus.
Many students cherish the memories they made at the old Student Union and are happy to have it back.
“It gives the people who experienced the old union a sense of nostalgia because of all the events that used to take place in and in front of the union. It also makes us appreciative to have it back,” senior Antoinette Collins said.
Some of the first events held at the new Student Union were hosted by SAA during Welcome Week. Senior Andrew Wildman remembers his favorite event from Welcome Week, which was ‘Dunk Your Orientation Leader.’
“There was nothing I missed more than having a place to gather,” Wildman said. “As I sat in a dunk booth, watching students go from class to class or meet up with friends at the plaza, I saw the Ole Miss family come together. As students laughed and participated in Welcome Week, everyone seemed to be having fun.”
After much anticipation, many would agree that the new building has become a hub of activity for students on our campus.
“Students now have a central location where they can meet to chat, mingle, study and relax,” Truong said. “I am proud of Ole Miss for taking a step forward for the future generations of Ole Miss students to come.”