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USU Through the Years

Welcome to the University Student Union (USU) history page. In the mid 1950S, the Long Beach Soroptimists raised money to design and build what would become known as the Soroptimist House, the first college union at Long Beach State University (LBSU). Once opened, students, staff, faculty and administrators knew that the ranch-style house with one meeting room, a kitchen and a tiered-garden, would not be enough to support the student population, which would reach 10,000 at the start of 1960.

Thus, the legacy of the current USU begins in 1958 when a Union planning committee was formed. Join us as we learn how our USU has grown because of the dedication and investment from students like you.

1957: The Soroptimist House is constructed and donated to Associated Students for use by student organizations. It serves as the first “college union” for the campus.

Soroptimist House

Growing in the Sixties: The 1960s was a decade of action and change for ASI. Students knew that the Soroptimist House was not going to be enough to support the quickly growing student population. In 1965, students voted to raise fees and build the University Student Union (USU). Groundbreaking for the project began in 1969.

1965: Students voted to assess a fee to construct, maintain and operate a “student body center,” later named the “University Student Union” (USU). The referendum passed by 74%.

When students and administrators envisioned a college union for LBSU, they had a specific philosophy and purpose in mind. They wanted the “masses of students” to develop “a broader individual realization of personal, social, intellectual, cultural, and civic potential which is afforded each student in the various experiences, opportunities, and educational situations which are provided outside of the classroom.” In other words, students understood the importance of connecting with peers and faculty outside of the confines of the classroom.

USU referendum campaign_1960s
USU groundbreaking man and woman_1960s
USU groundbreaking bulldozer_1960s

The Living Room of Campus: The 1970s was a decade of expanding and building, not just for the USU but the entire campus. The USU was completed in 1972 and the official building opening took place Sept. 19, 1972. After the opening, students flocked to the building and quickly made use of all its amenities, including the Games Center.

1972: The USU opened under the leadership of then Union Director, Frank Noffke. Edward A. Killingsworth, renowned architect, designed the student union. He believed in “the importance of space”; his work reflects airy, light-filled structures inviting the outdoors in. The building provided over 148,000 square feet of facilities for students, faculty, staff, and guests of LBSU with amenities such as bowling, billiards, music listening lounge, food vendors, and other student services.

USU Buildings External View 1972
Student Union Student Recreation
USU center courtyard construction 1970s
USU center courtyard with students 1970s

Settling In: Throughout the 1980s, students continued to use the USU facilities, amenities, resources, and programs.

1984: The USU Improvement Project began assessing student needs and long-term plans for the Union.

USU 1980s
USU candy counter 1980s
USU front entrance from friendship walk_1980s
USU west patio 1980s

Building Better: Brick-by-Brick: The 1990s were all about the USU Improvement Project, “Building Better: Brick-by-Brick"! Students once again voted to increase student fees to add the 3rd floor and the West Wing to the USU. The project also added the escalators that we have all come to know and love/hate.

1993: Students participated in several needs assessments, including surveys, focus groups and informational meetings for the Improvement Project. Students responded that the USU is a convenient place to hang out, and that they would like more lounge, study and relaxing space, in addition to increased programming and meeting space.

1994: An educational campaign for the USU Improvement Project entitled “Building Better – Brick-by-Brick” was launched. The Improvement Project addressed several issues, including earthquake and fire safety systems, elevator and roof waterproofing improvements, in addition to more space for programs and services, and expanded lounges for studying and relaxing.

1995: Through a referendum, the student body approved the $17 million Improvement Project, which added approximately 23,000 square feet to the building. The groundbreaking took place Nov. 4, 1995.

USU West Patio construction 1990s
USU Under Construction
USU Improvement Project escalator 1990s (1)

1998: The renovation of the USU was completed, adding the 3rd floor and West Wing.

USU Pool empty 1990s
USU 1990s band performance

Let’s Talk About Rec: The 2000s were all about Rec. The referendum campaign to fund and build the Student Recreation & Wellness Center (SRWC), “Let’s Talk About Rec,” kicked off in 2005. Students voted in 2007 and the SRWC opened fall of 2010.

2000 to 2001: ASI student leaders, headed by ASI President Wayne Stickney-Smith, began meetings to discuss the concept and feasibility of a Student Recreation Center on campus. This was a response to the realization that available recreation facilities were lacking.

2005: In the fall, ASI conducted an online survey that asked students about their recreational needs. About 8,000 students responded to the survey, or 23% of the student body. The results showed that students were not aware of what a student recreation center entailed (79% of respondents). Additionally, the results showed that 80% of respondents said they engaged in some type of recreation off campus, and that 54% were in support of building the Student Recreation & Wellness Center (SRWC).

2006: In the fall, ASI launched an educational campaign and proposed the construction of a 126,500-square-foot facility in a student fee referendum.

SRWC campaign 2000s

2007: The fee referendum for the SRWC took place Feb. 27 and 28. Overwhelmingly, students voted for the SRWC; 74.7% to 25.2%.  

SRWC construction 2000s
SRWC construction 2000s
SRWC grand opening 2010

It Starts with You: The 2010s were all about assessment. Starting in 2011, ASI conducted several studies and assessments to understand the needs of students. In 2015, ASI held a referendum vote to raise student fees to fund the renovation and expansion of the USU. Unfortunately, the vote did not pass.

2010: The SRWC Grand Opening took place Sept. 20.

2011: The USU Board of Trustees (USUBOT) and ASI began a formal assessment of LBSU students’ needs and desires for the USU. This assessment included numerous focus groups, interviews, an online survey of the entire student body with 12,350 responses (37% of enrollment) and recommendations for improving the students’ understanding of the facility needs.

2012 to 2014: Based on the recommendations from the spring 2011 assessment, the student leaders of ASI and the USU conducted an educational campaign “Take Ten,” sharing the results of the survey findings, conducting minor facility improvements and strategizing future assessments of students.

April 2014: The USUBOT and ASI began a second formal assessment of LBSU students’ needs and interest in renovating and expanding the USU. This assessment included several focus groups, interviews, an online survey of the entire student body with 8,124 responses (24% of enrollment), examination of facility improvement options, fee tolerance and financial plans.

Students responded that the USU is the focal point of campus; they spend more time together in the facility and expressed a desire for more lounge, study and dining spaces. Students demonstrated a need for more student organization space, student resource center(s) and a sustainability resource center. Most students (59% of respondents) said they were likely to support the expansion and renovation of the USU. The USUBOT approved the recommendation to conduct a referendum of the LBSU student body to consider the USU project. The ASI Senate subsequently confirmed the action taken by the USUBOT.

May 2014: The Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC) approved the USU referendum to be held February 2015.

August 2014: An educational campaign for the USU referendum entitled “It Starts with You” launched to inform students about the need to improve the facility infrastructure as well as to address student needs and growing demand for space.

2015: Students voted online Feb. 25 and 26 for the USU referendum; it did not pass. The students decided not to revisit the referendum, although there was still a need for infrastructure updates.

USU referendum 2015

2016: Grand opening of the ASI Beach Pantry within the USU to serve students experiencing food insecurity.

2017 to 2018: ASI President Marvin Flores and ASI Vice President Logan Vournas, prioritized the USU’s Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) project, which made some of the necessary infrastructural improvements to the facility. Even though the student referendum did not pass, the temporary infrastructural repairs and upgrades were required to ensure the safety of all students and building occupants. Due to budget constraints, only mechanical and electrical repairs were approved to be completed. The facility closed from Dec. 22 through Jan. 7 to complete the project. The repairs were 5- to 7-year temporary solutions.

USU escalators broke 2010s USU sunset lounge damage 2010s

2018 to 2019: The addition of a multi-stall all-gender restroom on the third floor of the USU opened to all members of the campus community. ASI President Genesis Jara and ASI Vice President Leen Almahdi made it a priority to provide more inclusive restroom options on campus. Additionally, right next to the new restrooms, a foot washing station was built.

2019: The USUBOT and ASI conducted another facility and programs need assessment for the USU and SRWC. An online survey was distributed to the entire student population and was available Nov. 20 through Dec. 6. There were 10,450 responses (26% of enrollment). Most students (52% of respondents) ranked improvements to the USU as either “High” or “Very High” and were satisfied with the current SRWC facility.

2019 to 2020: New carpeting was placed in the administrative wing of the second floor. This, along with a fresh paint job on the walls, created a cleaner, more enjoyable workspace for students, staff and faculty. A more obvious improvement was the escalators. With brand new steps, chains and handrails, the improved escalators are meant to last longer. Lastly, modern furniture was placed throughout the second-floor lounge areas to meet the growing demand for access to electrical outlets and study space.

The USU: Fifty Years of Student Service! This year the USU celebrates 50 years of service to LBSU students. We hope that The Future U Project will help us commit to another 50 years of excellent service to students. Help us imagine the Future U!

USU center courtyard 2020s

2020 to 2021: The USUBOT approved a proposal to work with an engineering firm to explore the scope of a renovation and expansion of the USU. This project included review of construction costs, building infrastructure needs and concepts to create a variety of renovation and expansion scenarios for the existing building.

April 2022: ASI student leaders met with SFAC to discuss an Alternative Consultation process to address infrastructural issues and increasing demands for space. The process mandates active, meaningful engagement with the student body throughout its duration. This year-long project will contain many phases of research and active participation from the various constituents on campus. The Alternative Consultation Proposal passed, which initiated the collection of student, staff and faculty thoughts about the USU.

May 2022: ASI conducted another round of assessment. An online survey about on-campus dining needs was distributed to the entire student population and was available May 2 through 27. There were 3,737 responses (9% of total enrollment). This survey gathered feedback about the current on-campus food service and asked students what wanted to see for future food options.

September 2022: The USU celebrates 50 years of operation on Sept. 19.