Campus on the move

Memorial Union project spurs ripple-effect changes for staff, offices and students

February’s Provost Forum was student service-focused as campus leaders discussed how the Memorial Union’s closure and reconstruction will affect UND. Archival image.

What’s happening right now?

If you ask Cara Halgren, vice president for student affairs and diversity, “asbestos” is the word of the day.

Cara Halgren

At Thursday’s Provost Forum, Halgren and her team led a presentation addressing the many changes happening as a result of the Memorial Union closing this year for demolition and reconstruction.

She says the work to remove the building’s hazardous material will start before spring break, which falls on the week of March 11, and will likely last until the Memorial Union comes down, around July 1.

“What our Facilities colleagues told us is that the third floor is where they need to start with asbestos abatement,” Halgren said. “In order to make sure we’re doing this in a timeline that keeps us on budget and on time, we need to start that work early.”

It has a ripple effect across campus.

A group will move out of the Memorial Union before spring break, then another before the end of the semester. Halgren clarified that the exact details aren’t ready to share, but a plan is in place to keep campus abreast on a day-to-day basis regarding what’s affected by the Memorial Union project.

“Jed Shivers and I are leading the On-Campus Experience Planning Committee,” she said, referring to the vice president of finance and operations. “We want to look at the program changes that are happening, how campus events and programming are affected and the communication that goes along with it. We want to ensure the student experience remains positive through all of the changes happening over the next couple of years.”

Consistent updates

Their plan is to roll out a website providing consistent updates as to where construction is happening, where roads may be closed and where people are located, given the moving process. Halgren said the last public events in the Memorial Union will be around May 11.

Tom DiLorenzo

Tom DiLorenzo

“We know that these changes disrupt the lives of many of you,” she said to her audience. “I just want to thank you for everything you’re doing. I realize this isn’t easy, or an easy time of the year to do it. This all allows the project to stay on track, and that’s what we promised the students when they voted to support the project.”

Provost Tom DiLorenzo also expressed his appreciation for everyone’s patience throughout the process. He thanked the student body for being proactive, saying the project is a “game-changer” for the University.

“Things are happening so fast,” he said. “I know a couple of folks have already been displaced, and we apologize for that, but we need to keep moving. We appreciate everything you can do to help us through the next couple of years to get this done.”

As people and offices move from the Memorial Union to new or temporary locations, it will be important to reflect those changes in the University Directory. The Human Resources office says larger groups can submit changes on a spreadsheet, versus individuals requesting their own information to be changed. Whether en masse or individually, the information must include the employee ID number, name, old address and phone number (if changing) and new address and phone number. Requests may be sent to und.humanresources@und.edu.

Hot off the press

Cassie Gerhardt

Cassie Gerhardt

Cassie Gerhardt, associate dean of students and director of student involvement and parent programs, highlighted just how fast things are moving ahead when she said the design phase for the new Memorial Union went from a year to just a few months.

“Since the November 20 referendum by our students, we’ve had our architects on campus three times,” she said, adding that WTW Architects had just left after a two-day visit. “They’ve been amazing partners.”

Gerhardt went over “hot off the press” plans for the new building floor by floor. Her rapid-fire descriptions of the new space focused on more glass (meaning more natural light), more open spaces, greater means of accessibility and increased functionality of spaces like the ballroom and the current lecture bowl. High tech enhancements were also brought up as a priority for the new facility.

Housing and Dining changes

Shuttering the old Memorial Union certainly affects UND Dining Services, says director Orlynn Rosaasen; but it also creates opportunities for diverse campus locations in the interim.

In addition to the request for proposals from the University, seeking a public-private partnership for dining services in the Union and around campus, Rosaasen says a convenience store location will open in O’Kelly Hall and cart services will return to Columbia Hall and offer coffee, pastries and pre-made deli items. Campus Catering will move its base of operations to the lower level of Wilkerson Commons during spring break.

Also mentioned were plans to transition Squires’ dining hall to an a la carte service, similar to what’s currently available in the Memorial Union’s Old Main Marketplace. To accommodate, Rosaasen says meal plan options will be updated with more flex dollars available. There is also a plan in the works to move Little Bangkok’s popular offerings to the space.

This transition plays into UND Housing’s plans to develop buildings west of the coulee to be the first-year student hub, with Wilkerson Commons being the centerpiece, says UND Housing Director Troy Noeldner. That leaves the Walsh complex to accommodate upperclassmen who decide to remain on campus. Swanson Hall, due to its proximity to the Memorial Union, will be closed during the 2019-2020 academic year.

“We’re looking at ways to refresh Swanson, as well,” Noeldner remarked. “It’s always been our new building, but that was new in ’83. With changes to the campus core and the Union, we’re seeing what that can look like.”