ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard, third from right, joins members of the Board of Trustees in a ground-breaking ceremony for the new student center on campus. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Trustees break ground on new student center

Nov. 20, 2015

By Crystal Baity and Kelly Setzer
ECU News Services

On a beautiful fall day, the East Carolina University Board of Trustees broke ground Nov. 20 for a new student center on main campus.

The 210,000 square foot facility will front 10th Street as a prominent gateway to campus. The center will include a 24- x 42-foot outdoor digital display screen, six dining options, lounges, meeting space and study rooms. It also will become home to Dowdy Student Store, the Jesse Peel LGBT Resource Center and the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center.

The new facility, expected to open mid-2018, will replace Mendenhall Student Center, which will be repurposed for other uses. Mendenhall was built in 1974 for a student population of 11,000. ECU has grown to more than 28,000 students today.
Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Jones, Chancellor Steve Ballard, and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Virginia Hardy, left to right, presented remarks before the ground-breaking for the new student center.

Board chairman Steve Jones said the facility will become the face of ECU, where students can “live, learn, lunch and lounge.” Students, faculty, staff and administrators attended the groundbreaking, which was held in conjunction with the Board of Trustees regular meeting Nov. 19-20.

Chancellor Steve Ballard said the new center represents a well-orchestrated plan for student life.

“In building a sense of community and belonging, student centers serve as a recruitment tool and allow for practical engagement for application of skills, knowledge and competencies from the classroom,” Ballard said.

The estimated cost for the main campus student union building and adjacent 700-space parking garage is $122.2 million. Construction fencing will go up Dec. 20 and work is expected to begin Jan. 4. Another student center is being built on the health sciences campus.      

“The student center will strongly enhance the quality of life on campus for our students, providing them with an attractive, open and engaging space that will meet their needs and encourage more congregation and social interaction,” said Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs. “It will cultivate intellectual, artistic, recreational and cultural exchange among students, staff and faculty.”

Mark Matulewicz, president of the ECU Student Government Association, said the new center will be a great addition to campus and an incredible opportunity for students. “It’s another reason why ECU is the best in the UNC system,” he said.

In other business, trustees: 

  • Became the first university in the 17-campus UNC system to approve a resolution of support for the $2 billion Connect NC Bond Act for higher education. State residents will vote on the bond March 15.

  • Approved a resolution of support for the Staff Senate, which in a called meeting this week asked for a market rate study of salaries to address inequities.

  • Learned about the “One Community” initiative within the Division of Student Affairs, uniting members of ECU’s Greek organizations in recruitment, philanthropy and intramurals.

  • Approved a 10 percent increase in parking space fees across campus beginning July 1, 2016. Fees will rise $36 a year for A permits and $18 per year for B permit holders.