October 10, 2013
As it reopens over the next year and a half, Talley Student Union will give students a new place to learn by doing.
In the Talley Student Union, the university will have a campus hub where students learn to build community and collaborate, campus leaders said. Students will also develop skills there that they’ll need in their postgraduate careers.
“We’ve known for a long time that learning occurs in the classroom and outside the classroom,” said associate vice provost for student leadership and engagement Mike Giancola. “But the best of both those worlds is when you can connect the learning that goes on in the classroom with what goes on outside it.”
Talley Student Union will merge in-class and out-of-class learning, according to University Student Centers director Tim Hogan, by bringing together student groups, employing students to manage day-to-day operations, and working with academic departments to launch skill-building internships.
In developing the student building manager positions, “we attempt to mirror what we see in classroom projects teaching teamwork and leadership,” Hogan said. “Hopefully, that transitions students into the work world.”
Leadership is the most important skill Phillip Hardy learned as a student building manager. The May 2013 graduate in parks, recreation and tourism management remembers evacuating students during a fire drill on his first day working without a trainer.
“I had to learn on the fly how to keep calm and be able to direct people,” said Hardy, who now works in shipping and receiving at the union. “It was exciting.”
Students were as involved in shaping the new student union as they are in running it. The Student Centers board of directors helped determine how to finance it and has been instrumental in designing and outfitting Talley Student Union, said Wesley Lo, the board’s president.
The first phase of the new union, which includes lounge and gaming areas, information desks, four restaurants and a market with a bakery and ice cream shop, will open at 4 p.m. on Oct. 23.
Later phases, scheduled for completion in January 2014 and spring 2015, will complete Talley’s transition from student center to student union. More than a name change, the transformation reconnects the facility to a campus tradition more than 60 years old.
NC State’s first student union — today’s Erdahl-Cloyd Wing at D.H. Hill Library — bears the name of the university’s first union director: Gerald Erdahl. In the 1930s, Erdahl was a student of Porter Butts, widely regarded as the “father of the college union movement” in the United States. Erdahl led NC State’s student union in the tradition of early-19th-century British college unions, which were the centers of student and academic life.
“The idea of the union, it’s more about the collaboration that’s going on inside the building,” said Kevin Rollinson, a senior business administration major and member of the Student Centers board of directors. “It’s where the building falls into the background.”
Talley Student Union is the hub of University Student Centers, a community that supports student service, leadership and expression.
When it fully opens in spring 2015, Talley Student Union will bring together some of the university’s largest, most active student organizations, including Student Government, the Union Activities Board, Greek Life, the Women’s Center, and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Center.
The Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service, Multicultural Student Affairs and other student-support organizations will also live at the new student union as part of a Student Involvement Center that will assist student organizations large and small.
Hogan hopes the new student union will become a place where students and faculty meet and share ideas informally. Contact with faculty outside the classroom is central to student success, Hogan said.
“An easy way for a student to have out-of-the-classroom contact is to go to a faculty member’s office hours,” he said. “But if you can run into a faculty member over a cup of coffee in the student union, it’s a more comfortable, more relaxing environment.”
“It’s just going to be a crossroads for so much of what the students do on campus,” Giancola said. “And now they’ll have a state-of-the-art facility to do it in.”