New & Improved EMU Named Students’ Favorite Place
University of Oregon students picked the Erb Memorial Union as the No. 1 place they feel belonging on campus, and shed light on their favorite spaces in the newly-updated student union building. The findings are in a study by the university’s Office of Assessment and Research, conducted to gauge how students feel they fit in within their campus community.
As part of the study, students were asked to select their favorite spaces within the EMU using labeled floor plans. Their top three choices are:
#1: The Fishbowl
The renovated Fishbowl offers in-demand food and drink vendors such as Chipotle and Starbucks in a bright and glass-walled space looking out onto campus. Café tables and booths act as study and meetup spaces between class. Students who picked the Fishbowl as a favorite place said they liked the natural daylight and many uses for the space – eating, studying and socializing.
#2: The Student Atrium
Replacing the former 70s addition of the union, the Student Atrium is three stories of glass-walled student suites that allow in light and views of the activity within. On the south side of the student street, expansive windows overlook campus. When asked what they liked about the space, students frequently remarked that it was a great place to recharge and relax while feeling connected to the rest of the EMU – both inside and out because of the new transparency.
#3: The O Lounge
The ‘family room’ of the EMU, the O Lounge faces the union’s in-house pub, creating an after-hours vibe complemented by casual booth seating, video screens at tables and soft lighting. Students liked the O Lounge for its namesake – it’s a place to lounge and get away, but still be seen. The mix of natural and dim lighting was positively reviewed as providing areas to focus, work, socialize, eat and play.
The study findings confirm what the University had hoped of the new spaces, according to Director of EMU Laurie Woodward.
“SERA listened to students and staff, and created something that exceeded everyone’s expectations. Students now have a welcoming third place where they can build community, where they feel they belong,” said Woodward.
The renovation and expansion of the EMU was completed in Fall 2016. Integral to the design process were interactive work sessions with the students and university leadership to define and realize goals and desires for the building: highlighting previously-hidden student groups, bringing in natural daylight and views outdoors, improving student foot traffic and flow, and accommodating the varied study and social styles of students.
The EMU Post-Occupancy study is one of a three-party study designed to understand how students use the EMU and what they feel about its spaces. The research team used a heat mapping tool to gather responses from 465 student participants.