UM’s Student Activities Center Officially Opens

Features include a new Rathskeller; media suite that houses The Miami Hurricane, Ibis yearbook, and Distraction magazine; offices and cubicles for student organizations; and a 24/7study suite.

(August 26, 2013) — For Kamari Durley, it’s the study lounge that never closes. For Mike Piacentino, it’s the offices for different student groups that will make better collaboration possible. And for Stephanie Baguidy, it’s the “phenomenal ballrooms.”

When the doors swung open Monday to the University of Miami’s new Student Activities Center (SAC), each of the hundreds of students who streamed in for a tour had a multitude of reasons for falling in love with the three-story, 119,000-square-facility facility. But whatever their individual reasons may be, they all shared one thing in common: a sense of pride over the opening of a center built just for them.

At the August 26 official opening, students toured all three floors of the Student Activities Center.

“You’re all old enough to dream, and this building is a dream come true,” UM President Donna E. Shalala told them. The students, along with administrators, faculty, staff, and donors, had assembled on the center’s promenade to mark the SAC’s official opening, held on the first day of classes for the 2013-14 academic school year.

Made possible by a $20 million lead gift from the Fairholme Foundation as well as a 2006 referendum in which students voted overwhelmingly to impose a fee on themselves to fund its construction, the center will have its formal dedication on November 7.

Monday was a day to celebrate its unveiling. UM mascot Sebastian the Ibis led the crowd in the first ’Canes spell out performed at the building. An ensemble from the Frost School of Music performed in the lobby. Students, many of them touring the building for the first time, walked up and down the center’s floors and passageways, peering into offices dedicated to student organizations and walking out onto the second-floor balcony that overlooks Lake Osceola.

Sebastian the Ibis leads the crowd in the ever-popular C-A-N-E-S spell out at the official opening of the Student Activities Center.

“This is going to be my new home. I plan to get involved with United Black Student, so this is a place I’ll come to everyday,” said Baguidy, a junior biology major, referring to one of the many student groups that has office space at the SAC.

Among the center’s features: a new Rathskeller built near the site of the original eatery and campus pub; a Starbucks (UM now has two of the popular coffee shops); a media suite that houses The Miami Hurricane, Ibis yearbook, and Distraction magazine; offices and cubicles for student organizations; a grand ballroom that can seat more than 1,000 people and be divided into three sections; a study suite open 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and extensive meeting and activity space. It was designed by Arquitectonica and built by Fort Lauderdale-based Moss & Associates.

The hurricane-themed building features wave, wind, and raindrop terrazzo patterns on its first, second, and third floors, respectively. With spaces that maximize the use of daylight, a rainwater management system, native landscaping, and a plan to implement a recycling program after the facility opens, the center is designed to achieve silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Seventeen video screens throughout the facility will provide event and marketing information.

The Student Activities Center's grand ballroom offers seating for more than 1,000 people.

But it is office space for student groups that is arguably the facility’s most important benefit. With the center’s opening, student organizations that once had to share space at the adjacent Whitten University Center now have space dedicated specifically for them.

“We wanted a space that would be conducive to facilitating great communication among students, and with this center, we’ve achieved that,” said Bhumi Patel, president of Student Government, who explained that having Graduate Student Association and Law School Student Organization suites at the center will create “greater camaraderie among students.”

Piacentino, Student Government chief of staff, echoed Patel’s thoughts. “It’s going to allow student interaction like never before,” he said. “Imagine the Chinese Students and Scholars Association collaborating with members from the aeronautics club. That’s the kind of interaction this place will make possible.”

Office and cubicle space at the SAC will accommodate UM's many student organizations.

Durley, a junior ecosystem science and policy major from Chicago, plans to make extensive use of the 24/7 study lounge. “There’s no other place like it on campus,” he said.

Durley’s close friend, Michael Vante, said the new SAC “brings a renewed sense of pride to the University.”

Denis Hector, acting dean of UM’s School of Architecture, said one of the center’s most important architectural features is that it is connected to the adjacent Whitten University Center, which has undergone an extensive renovation and together with the SAC comprises what is now known as the Student Center Complex.

“It’s bright, lively, and fun, which is exactly what you need for a student activities center,” he said.

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