Heart of Student Life, USU Beating Strong After Five Years
By Hunter Chanove
The 2018-19 academic year at CSUSM witnessed the largest influx of incoming students to date. With 17,000 students, the campus is home to a diverse array of student interests, backgrounds and values. Since its opening in 2014, the University Student Union (USU) has become an integral part in helping to reinforce and integrate these shared experiences into the university campus.
Serving as the hub for student life, the USU has transformed the way students involve themselves within the campus via events, student spaces and support services. The USU does this all while providing valuable employment opportunities for students that translate to career readiness throughout multiple fields in the workforce. The USU employs over 350 student assistants, making it the largest single facility on campus of student-powered operations.
“The USU has immensely enhanced my college experience through many unforgettable events and provided me with countless professional opportunities to grow as an aspiring global marketer,” said junior Mikayla Meneses, USU Live Outreach Programmer. “As the heartbeat of campus, the USU has transformed my life in all areas and has helped me grow professionally and personally.”
With world class event spaces, including a 9,000-square-foot ballroom, the USU has played host to over 4,000 events since opening its doors five years ago. Featuring numerous prominent entrepreneurs, politicians, and global leaders – from founding figures in the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements to internationally recognized humanitarians – these speaker series at the USU have helped solidify CSUSM’s position as a global change-making campus. In the realm of community governance, the USU has also helped to encourage civic engagement among students, serving as the site for CSUSM’s first Congressional Candidate Forum and most recently hosting the California Attorney General’s Office Public Forum on the California Consumer Privacy Act.
Over the last five years, the USU has continued to find new and innovative ways to adapt to the needs of its diverse campus community. One way in which it has done this is by adding two new cultural centers – the Latin@ Center and Black Student Center.
Among those creating change in the building is Associated Student Inc. President Savana Doudar, who helped launch the Cougar Pantry this academic year with her Board of Directors.
“Since it’s opening in 2014, the University Student Union has taken a proactive role in serving our students,” Doudar said. “Responding to our unique campus and student needs, the facility is home to several new additional student resources such as the Latin@ Center, Black Student Center, and the Cougar Pantry, many of which were student-led initiatives.”
To cap off what has been a successful first five years, the USU has recently seen the appointment of a new senior executive at the helm of its operation charged with handling the affairs of student life. With a long track record of demonstrated progressive change in higher education, Gail Cole-Avent is serving as the new Associate Vice President, Student Life.
“Even as a neophyte to CSUSM, it is evident that the USU is a special place. The facility, along with the student-focused departments, services, and partners significantly contribute to the vibrant campus life that continues to evolve as the institution grows,” Cole-Avent said. “It is great to witness this milestone and as we begin the road to a decade, I anticipate continued transformative experiences in the lives of our students.”