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Expanded USD Student Center, Expanded Possibilities

January 20, 2014, 10:24 PM by Brady Mallory

Expanded USD Student Center, Expanded Possibilities

Presentation is everything.

"This is new.  It's kind of an expanded version of what used to be here," Phillip Carter, Manager of Media Relations for the University of South Dakota, said.

The little extras add up to big improvements.

"So, like if you wanted bigger screens, you could do it in quadrants of four.  All our individual TVs, too," Carter said, pointing to a giant television comprised of several 60 inch HD TVs.

But there is more than just eye candy at the newly-expanded Muenster University Center.

"I have not been to Qdoba yet.  Just recently got Chick-Fil-A for the first time today," Jarrad Emery, Senior Marketing Major, said.

This is a first taste of what the larger, and more modern, MUC has to offer students at USD. 

USD has had a spike in its student population in last few years from 8,800 in 2006, to 10,200.  Completed this month, construction crews added 31,000 square feet of space, which when added to the existing building, totals more than 101,000 square feet.

"Now it's just kind of cool to see how it's all come to an end.  I've been looking at the construction for the past year.  To see it all now is really cool," Emery said.

There are more than 1,200 places to sit, including restaurant and café-style options.  The MUC has added national brands, including Chick-Fil-A, Einstein Bros. Bagels and a Qdoba. 

"I like that there's a lot more seating for studying, and relaxing, and hanging out with friends and just even eating.  Before it was really small and kind of uncomfortable to find a spot to just kind of hang out, but now there's space to just be yourself in this area," Nicholas Tifft, Junior Elementary Education Major, said.

"The theme of the student union is to kind of be the living room on campus," Kyle Schoenfelder, MUC Director, said.

The area adds some perks for the University as well.

"The expansion itself is a huge marketing tool, literally and figuratively.  I mean, 31,000 square feet?  Three new restaurants?  We're very excited about it.  We've seen an increase in foot traffic already," Schoenfelder said.

Schoenfelder, formerly a student admissions counselor, said students do not just pick a university or college based on the classes and programs it offers.  Facilities and what they have to offer, including the MUC, play a big part in recruiting new students.

"They want the experience.  It's going to be in the residence halls, it's going to be in the cafeteria, it's going to be in the classroom.  It's going to be in the athletic facilities.  Whatever it is, they want the full experience at the university, and that's what we want to provide for them is a traditional university where we can meet their needs and wants at the same time," Schoenfelder said.

USD is a Division I school, but Carter will tell you that title must go above and beyond just sports.  An evolving campus must come with the territory.

"Students see that going on and we get more students, more potential students that are interested in USD, and suddenly, our 70,000 square foot student center becomes a 100,000 square foot university center because we need to accommodate that growth," Carter said.

From food to space to entertainment, the little extras in this building are all pieces of improving an already thriving university.  Everything present at USD now is all part of shaping its future.

"Pay attention to your students, listen to your students.  Listen to what they want and give them what they want.  Then you're going to see rapid growth we have experienced in the last four or five years," Carter said.

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