Student Activity Center

This article is about the type of building. For the sports complex in Laredo, Texas, see Student Activity Complex.

A student activity center (SAC) is a type of building found on university campuses. In the United States, such a building may alternately be called a student union, student commons, or student center. The term "student union" refers most often in the United States to the building, while in other nations a "students' union" is the student government.

The first student activity center built at a public university in the United States was the Ohio Union (1909) at The Ohio State University. The largest student activity center is at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma.[1]


The first student activity center in America was Houston Hall, at the University of Pennsylvania, which opened January 2, 1896[2] and remains in operation to this day. Oklahoma State University's student activity center, opened in 1950. With subsequent additions and renovations in 2010 have made the building one of the largest student activity centers in the world at 611,000 sq ft (56,800 m2).[3] The first Ohio Union at Ohio State University was Enarson Hall. The building opened in 1911 and was the first student activity center to be built at a state university and the fourth of its kind in the United States.[4]

Some student activity centers carry unique origins and historical significance with some on the National Register of Historic Places. The William Pitt Union originally constructed in 1898 as a hotel and was converted into a student activity center in 1956.[5] Some student activity centers on the NRHP include O'Hara Student Center (University of Pittsburgh), McKenny Hall (Eastern Michigan University) and the Tivoli Student Union.[6][7] The Tivoli Student Union was originally home to the Trevoli Brewing Company but since has been converted to serve several institutions in Denver, Colorado[8]

The Association of College Unions International is one of the oldest association in higher education which dates back to 1914.[9] This association is the largest organization that represent student activity centers and student unions in the United States. As of today the organization has 522 member institutions.[9]

In 2007, The University of Vermont's student center became the first LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.[10][11]

Other examples of student activity centers include West Virginia University's Mountainlair, the J. Wayne Reitz Union at the University of Florida, the Bronco Student Center at Cal Poly Pomona, the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the Price Center at UC San Diego.


Broadly speaking, the facility is devoted to student recreation and socialization. A student activity center or student union is the community center of the college, serving students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests. A student activity center might offer a variety of programs, activities, services, and facilities.[12]

It may contain lounges, wellness centers, dining facilities or vendors, and entertainment venues. The student activity center is often the center of student affairs and activities and may house the offices of the student government or other student groups. It may also act as a small conference center, with its meeting rooms rented out to student groups and local organizations holding conferences or competitions. An example of this for instance is the Michigan Union, which hosts the University of Michigan Model United Nations conference.

Depending on the school and its location it might have unique amenities such as a bowling alley, cultural or prayer rooms and unique services. At Eastern Michigan University Student Center the building offers a Kiva Room. A Kiva Room, is a round, 360-degree room patterned after spaces used in Native American cultures.[13] The Kiva Room is used as a meeting space, for collaboration, or for musical purposes.[14] In the Ohio State University-Ohio Union, the student union offers an interfaith prayer room which has feet washing area for Muslim students.[15] The University of Central Florida has an Eyewear and Optometric consumer service location.[16]

See also


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