Newly renovated student center to contribute to sense of community at UK

The University of Kentucky Student Government Association holds a meeting in their new space in the Gatton Student Center on Monday, August 13, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

McKenna Horsley

The Gatton Student Center is shaping up to be the “living room of campus” this fall.

Multiple student groups moved into their new spaces in the Student Center over the summer. The Student Center now houses the Office of Student Organizations and Activities, which manages and supports the Center for Student Involvement. Student groups like the Student Activities Board, Student Government Association, Center for Community Outreach and DanceBlue are under the center. Radio station WRFL is now housed in the Student Center, after being in the Whitehall basement for several years, and the Office of LGBTQ* Resources and the Martin Luther King Center also support student organizations in the Student Center.

Grace Hahn Hester, director of Student Organizations and Activities, said that the space also has resources for registered student organizations, such as graphic design services, printing services, organizational leadership support and, beginning in the fall, free storage lockers for the academic year.

The Student Center also has the new Involvement Advising Program, which is a peer resources program that helps students learn more about campus involvement, Hester said. Incoming and current students can text, call or meet with an Involvement Advising Coordinator to explore the student’s interests and getting involved on campus.

The Cats Den is also among the groups that have recently moved into the Student Center. The Cats Den was previously in the old Student Center before being re-housed in Blazer Dining’s basement during the renovations.

Dustin Adams, who is the assistant director of activities and marketing and oversees the Cats Den, said the organization’s new space on the first floor of the Student Center was made with its needs in mind. The space was made to feel like an outdoors space, with dark green carpet and multiple garage doors that open into the hallway. Adams said that Cats Den is now looking to expand its programming, from about 40 events a semester to close to 100.

Adams said the biggest downfall of being in Blazer Dining was that the Cats Den was “tucked away” from most of campus. Now, it’s next to Panda Express and Chick-fil-A. Adams said more students may walk by and jump into a program.

SGA was previously housed on the third floor of Blazer Dining. SGA President Michael Hamilton said its new space across from the Student Activities Board is physically nicer, “but the culture in the Center for Student Involvement among all of the organizations is already noticeably improved.” SGA officially moved in July.

Hamilton said that SGA’s new senate chamber has a voting system to make meetings more efficient. He also said he hopes that with SGA in a more central campus location and in a more open building, more students will interact with SGA.

“Former student government members and staff who have been around the organization said that there were always students in the office sharing their concerns in the old student center, so I am really excited to see that culture return,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said that he believes the Student Center will become a “living room” of campus, a term that he heard used by President Eli Capilouto. Hamilton said that the center will have consistent programming, meaning there will always be something to do, and the Center for Student Involvement will naturally bring in students who want to be involved.

Another student group that has moved into the Student Center is DanceBlue. The organization’s overall chairman Tyler Ward said the move was pretty simple for DanceBlue. When the Student Center was being rebuilt, DanceBlue shared an office with the Center for Community Outreach in Blazer Dining. Before that, DanceBlue was in the old Student Center.

Ward said that DanceBlue having its own office will help increase the camaraderie among its members. He said about 45 students would regularly work in the office throughout the week.

Ward, who is an economics senior, toured the old Student Center before construction began. He said that he expects the Student Center to become a place he will go in between classes.

“We’ve gone so long without having a student center,” Ward said. “It’s a really nice place.”