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Does Generation Z still find the student union relevant on today’s campus?

Hear our panelists discuss how the underlying fundamentals of the student union still serve the needs of Gen Z. Part 2/5

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<p>Raymond Maggi:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We talked a little bit about this the other day. We were talking about the upcoming event, sort of what was going to happen, and I think we touched on some of the points earlier in our presentations before this event and an interesting point that you brought up about how the students are looking for face time. I think what we're seeing with some of the unions as they're moving forward is some of the types of- I don't know if I'd call them services but functions moving back in where there are face to face encounters, counseling for one, health and wellness programs moving back into the union or maybe they had gone a different route.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; An example that we gave earlier, the Faculty Development Center to me is a fascinating one because I think it's an institution in this case who's challenged us architecturally to go in a new direction because I think they're really in tune with what's happening in their campus and the generation of students who are there, who are seeking that additional face time but also, and maybe it's the sort of side bar thing that you talk about where they're actually tutoring. They're tutoring professors in how to use technology and as a new type of function in a student union, I think it's really fascinating.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; To the point about relevancy, do you think it's a point where the pendulum has just gone so far in one direction, like I sort of jokingly say this, the mall-ification of the student center. You had mentioned gamification I think earlier for one of the tasks, but the mollification where for us, maybe as Generation X growing up, we sought out a student center that was more like the shopping mall, and now you can see the demise of the shopping mall. Has the pendulum gone so far and now it's coming back the other way? I think fundamentally, in some ways, that definition from 1914 about the student union as a unifying force is still relevant, very relevant, but now how it's executed in terms of spaces and amenities has just changed. We've gone so far in this direction. Now we're going to start swinging back in a different way. I don't know if that's accurate or if we're at a stopping point or just a turning point.</p> <p>Dr. Corey Seemiller:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I think to jump in when you talk about this pendulum swinging, I think you're spot on. I think we've moved from this mall-like thing and now we're realizing that students aren't going to be doing those things that we anticipated and it's swinging back to be this living room again. The thing that will continue to differentiate this union, I mean I hate to say it is the food offerings. There are some academic schools or buildings that might have a Starbucks or something in them, whatever they might have, but for the most part, if you want food, you go to the student union. I don't see that changing necessarily anytime soon but I think it has to be a place where you want to sit and stay because if you're going to get your food and then you're going back to another building to sit and relax because it's more comfortable, that's where the problem is.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I think student unions are incredibly relevant, not in the structure that they are offered today. I think we have this big argument about five years ago when I was at the student union about whether or not we need to continue to have a room with pool tables because students have pool tables in their residence halls and nobody was really playing pool anymore, and then there's a bunch of outsiders who would come in and play pool. It was like, &quot;Do we take up this precious space?&quot; We turned it into a gathering space and it was awkward at best because it still had a pool table in it and the question was what do we do. We changed it into a gaming center where we had a big TV and they could game. That was very short-lived because now you game in your own space and on your own phone.</p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We keep trying to catch up with the entertainment and I'm not sure that that's the prize we want to go after. I think that really the heart of it is going back to the roots of the student union and saying this is where people need to gather to be able to learn, to talk, to socialize, to make friends, to get something to eat, to relax, to take a break from their academic buildings but we have shoved a bunch of stuff in and now we're finding that it's taking up space and people are not going to it. At least that was my experience working with a student union.</p> <p>Raymond Maggi:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Yeah, it's interesting. I think you said like the prize or the end game is what are you chasing. I think if you're constantly chasing the latest trend, you'll never catch up but if what you're chasing is the underlying fundamental nature of what it means to come together and how you do that, the architectural execution of that, it's going to change. The student union 20 years ago was a nice glass fishbowl seating area, sunken lounge and then now it's a learning stair. How we bring people together, as long as you're chasing I think the fundamental, it will always be relevant. If you chase the architectural trend, I'm not sure you'll ever- you'll catch up but everything will have already moved on.&nbsp;</p>

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