Cougars rave about new facilities
The New University Center opened Monday, and students, faculty, staff and alumni are loving it.
Keith Kowalka, assistant vice president for student affairs, has played an instrumental role in the transformation since its start in 2006, when the master plan was created. With student leaders, including the student government administrations, Kowalka and other faculty have answered students’ requests and have remade the 1967 UC into a state-of-the-art, brighter, more inviting facility.
“This is the one building on campus that student government approves the fee of, and we want students to make it their home,” Kowalka said. “If you’re a workout person, you love the Rec. If you’re a researcher, you like the library, but this is the one building on campus that everyone should come to and should feel comfortable and make it their home.”
The food trucks will stay, but not at the UC. Aramark, the University’s food service, is looking to create another concrete pad at the grassy “U” between PGH, the old Science Building and Agnes Arnold Hall.
Construction manager Austin Schniers is excited about the food options.
“Can’t beat Starbucks. Panda Express? Kim Son is out the window. I’m excited about Panda Express,” Schniers said. “Chick-fil-A is good for balance, of course.”
But the UC isn’t finished this semester. When the New UC completely finishes in January 2015, Freshii will bring nutritional and energizing food, and Shasta Creamery will return, Kowalka said. They intend to reveal more improvements every few months until the final opening date.
After Spring Break in March, there will be a 15-foot marquee in the front circle. By August, four more red, laminated bowling lanes will be added to the game room, along with projectors above the lanes to broadcast sports games. When the second floor of the New UC opens, the meeting rooms — named Space City, Heights, Midtown and others — will show Houston pride.
Technology junior Kimberly Nguyen said the UC has definitely made a drastic improvement.
“I personally was against the new construction for it, mainly because I don’t like the idea of how student fees are increasing and what not, but I definitely see the money being where it’s put, being where it’s worth,” Nguyen said.
Pharmacy graduate student Richard Ajumobi said he will slightly miss the statue of the cougar devouring other Texas university mascots, but is more excited to see change and modernization that answers what the students of today want.
“A lot of the building was in the old-school wooden brass. Now, it’s a lot more lively, a lot more colorful. I like that they modernized it,” Ajumobi said. “It’s a good center to bring in new students, because they’ll be able to come here and see many different areas of interests, such as the game room, theater, food and to sit and talk.”
Alumnus Adriann Hobbs said the New UC better accommodates our growing university and Tier One status. He feels that there will be more collaboration between the organizations and more fun student events.
“It’s a large upgrade to what the previous one was. It allows a lot of students to actually have the opportunity to gain all their resources and gain all their needs in one central area,” Hobbs said. “It’s something that we have needed as an institution.”