Home is where the heart is, and if the student union is the living room of campus, then everyone – students, their families, faculty and staff, and the surrounding and supporting communities – should be able to recognize that this is a place where everyone belongs.
Belonging is clearly the reoccurring theme in this year’s edition of ACUI’s annual Renovation & Construction edition of The Bulletin. Over the course of the 20 pages of descriptions, reflections, and images that tell the stories behind the eight building projects submitted by ACUI members you will be hard pressed to find a single one that does not reference some connection to belonging: meditation rooms and lactation spaces, art galleries and maker spaces, accessibility services, affinity rooms, tutoring centers, and gaming spaces.
Designers, architects, and the students and professionals engaged in the projects made it look easy to belong: Indoor hammocks, pubs, design elements like murals and quotes for education leaders, repurposing of ages-old building materials, bleacher seating facing movie screens, and now, in a post-COVID era, lots and lots of outdoor terraces, dining spaces, and seating with a view.
It was not just the projects that reflected a focus on belonging in this special edition of The Bulletin. Both ACUI President Neela Patel and Association CEO John Taylor, unbeknownst to the other, shared their own unique takes on our campuses, our Association, and a connection to belonging. And finally, our guest authors, Elizabeth Beckett and Amanda McLittle from the University of Michigan, and Shana Bisiegel of Ferris State University and Bryan Peck from Mazévo Software, unknowingly did the same, sharing stories on how to plan for successful affinity spaces (Beckett and McLittle) and how to keep students happily employed, semester after semester.
Rising above the vestiges of the pandemic, the perils of a student mental health crisis, and what seems to be an unceasing philosophical wedge between citizens in this country, stands the student union at the center of our colleges and universities, that place where belonging remains unchecked.