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Legacy at Heart at University of North Dakota
North Dakota Ag Connection - 11/07/2018

Kaleb Dschaak works out five times a week at the University of North Dakota Student Wellness Center.

Lately, as he lifts weights and runs on the track, he's been thinking a lot about the students who built the Wellness Center, an award-winning facility which opened in 2006.

"The Wellness Center is a gift from students," said the student body vice president, who noted that students voted to increase student fees to pay for it. "They left future students a legacy. The impact students can make is tremendous."

Dschaak and other student government leaders hope current UND students will make a similar impact by voting Nov. 20 to increase student fees to build a new Memorial Union.

The new, 158,000 square-foot, three-story Memorial Union would include study and meeting spaces with up-to-date technology, expanded dining and retail options, indoor/outdoor gathering spaces, a rooftop terrace, and much more.

It's part of a planned campus renaissance. The University is also working with alumni, private donors and other funding sources to build a new College of Business & Public Administration, renovate the Chester Fritz Library and Stone House, and add to the High Performance Center.

"The Union is a cornerstone of a growing campus," Dschaak said. "We need to move into the modern age and structure a new building around students and technology."

"A new Union would have a significant impact on student life," said Erik Hanson, student body president. "It would set the standard for the next generation on campus."

Student leaders began discussing the need for a new Memorial Union about five years ago, said Hanson, who was part of those talks.

"We looked at options," Hanson said, adding that the cost of various concepts ranged between $60 million and $156 million. The current Memorial Union was also paid for with student fees.

Estimates to renovate and add to the Union were completed in 2017, but the cost was considered too high. A second study was initiated by student government leaders earlier this year.

"Students decided to reduce costs by going forward with an $80 million version," Hanson said. "We are hoping to create efficiencies by leveraging public-private partnerships, among other investments, to increase access to student services." UND would contribute about 20 percent of the cost of operating and supporting the new Union.

If approved, student fees would increase by $14 per credit hour, capped at 12 credits per semester, beginning with the Spring 2020 semester. The fee would increase by 2 percent each year from 2020 to 2059.

The current building, which was built in three phases beginning in 1951 with additions in 1964 and 1983, needs a new roof, along with fire safety, heating, plumbing, electrical, and accessibility updates, totaling $40 million, which, if the building is not replaced, would be paid for by increasing student fees.

"The amount of deferred maintenance is staggering," said Dschaak, "This is an opportunity to build something greater. We need to make the Union more student-focused -- a building built in the modern age for modern students."

"We can continue to put a Band-Aid on a 57-year-old building or invest in students today and in the future," said Hanson.

"People and technology are important to me," said Dschaak, who is pursuing a degree in information management systems. "Students have the opportunity to build something new. No matter what, student fees will go up. The new Union will take student opinions and build around them, just like the Wellness Center. This is an opportunity to build something great and make an impact."

"This is the right time," said Hanson. "This is a vote on leaving a legacy. The students before us invested in the Wellness Center, knowing that many of them would never use it. Now is our chance to make an investment in our alma mater and leave an impact on UND for years to come. This will benefit the next generation of students."

Information about the proposed new Memorial Union and the student vote is available at

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