WSU Tri-Cities opens new student union building

$5.73 million structure paid for by campus students

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Walking through the doors of WSU Tri-Cities’ student union building allows Israa Alshaikhli an appreciation for what college students can accomplish.

“I gave the speech at the groundbreaking ceremony,” the student body president said. “I was stopping by the building every day and seeing how it was growing. … It’s amazing.”

A public grand opening celebration for the $5.73 million building is set for 3 p.m. Thursday. WSU President Kirk Schulz, WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Keith Moo-Young and student representatives will speak.

Students already are taking advantage of the 10,000-square-foot building, which features a 2,437-square-foot multipurpose area. Alshaikhli said the movable walls can be pushed back, and a glass garage-style door can be opened up to the outside.

The space also features booths set in front of TVs that people can use for study and entertainment.

In the front, a student lounge still is being organized. Students can stop in for coffee, snacks and lounge furniture.

The growth of the campus — from its beginnings as the Joint Center for Graduate Study to its 1,800 student enrollment — makes improving the experience of students important, said Chris Meiers, the vice chancellor of enrollment management and student services.

“This has been a tremendous accomplishment for the students of WSU Tri-Cities and our community,” he said after the WSU Regents agreed to the construction. “I am proud of all the current and former students that have made our campus’s first space solely designed around the student experience, a reality.”

Plans for a student-focused recreation area started with a survey about seven years ago when students said they wanted more space on the campus. A second survey showed the support continued into the next year.

Students and faculty then began to examine how to pay for the building. As plans formed, students approved two referendums, agreeing to pay for the building with a $150 per-student, per-semester fee.

Along with about $1.5 million the student government set aside for the project, all of the costs of construction are being covered.

Giving students a space ties them to a campus where they might otherwise just go to class and leave, Alshaikhli said.

“It is truly a place that is for the students, by the students.”