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University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Breaks Ground On New Student Center

Tue December 27, 2022 - Southeast Edition #1

(L-R) are Carla Martin, vice chancellor of finance and administration; Mark Beach, CDI CEO; Margaret Martin-Hall, Title III director; Elbert Bennett, vice chancellor of student affairs; Donald R. Bobbitt, UA System president; Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander; Trenton Wills, student government association vice president; Manoja Reddy, graduate student; Kate East, AMR Architects partner; Col. Nathaniel Todd (ret.), member of the University of Arkansas board of trustees. (Photo courtesy of University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff website) South exterior rendering of Student Engagement Center. (Rendering courtesy of University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff website)

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Dec. 16 ahead of the start of construction on the school's new $33 million Student Engagement Center.

UAPB leaders want the approximately 62,000-sq.-ft. facility to become a hub for campus and community health education and engagement, and student health and wellness, assessment and counseling.

Among those wielding a gold shovel at the event were UAB Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander; University of Arkansas System President Donald R. Bobbitt; UAB Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Carla Martin; Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Elbert Bennett; and Student Government Association Vice President Trenton Wills.

During his remarks, Alexander applauded the students and student leaders who were present at the ceremony for their efforts in bringing the new facility to life.

"In 2017, [students passed] a referendum to charge themselves a fee, which was later approved by the [UAPB] Board of Trustees," he said. "I would like to recognize them for the significant role that they played in making this vision a reality."

Bennett, wearing a t-shirt students created to campaign for the referendum, added, "Today we honor the promises made to students over the past decade to provide a brand-new facility that will advance a sense of belonging and strengthen the institution by embracing the unique diversity of our UAPB community."

Facility to Provide New Homes for Different Services

Upon its completion, the Student Engagement Center will house the following amenities:

  • A Student Success Center
  • Career services
  • International programs
  • Graduate and professional school preparation
  • Student health services and a counseling center
  • Open use multipurpose and conference rooms
  • A pair of food vendor areas with seating
  • A wellness center with an indoor walking/running track
  • A four-lane bowling alley
  • A recreation area with pool tables, ping pong, and gaming tables
  • A 1,200-seat theater
  • Open seating for studying and gathering

Consistent with UAPB's land-grant mission, the Student Engagement Center also will provide outreach service to the Arkansas Delta Region through sponsorship of community health fairs and other events to inform local folks about public health issues.

"This center addresses a critical need for the university and the surrounding community by consolidating community health information with comprehensive health and wellness services for students," explained Alexander.

South exterior rendering of Student Engagement Center. (Rendering courtesy of University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff website)

New Student Center One of Several UAPB Projects

The university's Martin called Dec. 16 "Progress in the Pride Day," noting that the flagship student center project is one of many visible construction and rehabilitation projects happening on the campus. Others include the major upgrades to the interior of the L.A. Davis Student Union, the renovation of Larson Hall for faculty research and extension works throughout the state of Arkansas, and construction of a new residence hall — the first since 2017 — to address the increasing demand for on-campus housing at UAPB.

"We are undergoing a renaissance in many ways, and this renaissance is taking place in the education that our students are getting and in the [new] buildings and facilities," Alexander said.

"We hope students will view the new Student Engagement Center as a symbol of perseverance," Bennett told the gathering. "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Students should remain unstoppable in their efforts to create a better UAPB for future Golden Lions."

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