Union provides a place for rest and relaxation

Kimberly Valle, Staff Reporter

The Union, previously known as the Student Union, is a place where students can enjoy their free time in between classes, catch up with homework or hang out with friends. The Union has gone through a handful of changes since the year it was constructed in 1948. 

The buildings at UTEP are designed with Bhutanese architecture. Although the Union Building has Bhutanese influences, it is one of the few buildings without the distinct Dzong design.

In the 1940s, the population of the university increased tremendously. After World War II in 1946, hundreds of veterans registered at UTEP. Students were seeking an in-between class place to study, unwind and have club meetings. The idea of building a student union was in full affect after the drastic population growth. Dossie Marion Wiggins, who was the university’s president at the time, created the outline for the student union.

The West wing of the Union was the original building, which had a basement that held a bowling alley and a barbershop. The student union also had a ballroom, which held all the school dances, food gatherings and student programing and continued to be used until the addition of new larger rooms in Union Building East. The Union ballroom was remodeled in 1987, which became the UTEP Dinner Theater. Due to its lack of use by students and in order to accommodate more people, both the bowling alley and the barber shop were removed. These changes allowed for the Union to have an additional comfortable look.

As the school’s population kept growing, so did the Union. In 1969, the Union added a three-story East building and a two-story west building. The additions have since then held many of the student affairs administrative offices and later lead to the name change to the Union Building.

Kim Cossio, junior multimedia journalism major, has seen the Union go through many changes since her arrival at UTEP.

“The first time I have ever been in the union was during my freshman orientation about two years ago. I had to say that my favorite part of the Union is the colorful chairs and couches. They are better than the hard chairs,” Cossio said. “When I go to the Union, I just go to hang out with my friends if we have a break together or time.”

The original recreation room was located in the basement of Union Building West. It was renamed as the Union Recreation Center and moved to the second floor of the East wing in 1982, where it included arcade games. The area was renamed again in 2008 to Dynamite Gaming, which included X-box, Wii and Rock
Band stations.

Today, Dynamite has been refurnished to fit more seating at the Union food court. At this time, only pool tables and Ping-Pong remain.

Gigi Valles, junior criminal justice major, enjoys all that the Union East has to offer, from the food to its helpful university services.

“My favorite part is the second floor in Union East because it has the food court and a space to rest and gather with friends or study group,” Valles said.

Now even more small changes are making their way to the Union, according to director of the Union, Ofelia Dominguez.

“Our walls have been very bare since the beginning of the Union, there really hasn’t been an effort to put anything that shows student life on campus, so that’s what we have been working on. We do want to create more areas where we are showcasing our students,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez also said new furniture will be added to the third floor to be able keep that cozy environment all around the union.

The structure and internal architecture of the building has changed, but the overall purpose has stayed the same. The Union remains one of the most popular places on campus.

Kimberly Valle may be reached at [email protected]