UND Memorial Union Make Cover Splash

A special edition of the Association of College Unions International magazine presents UND on four spread pages

The new UND Memorial Union was recently honored in The Bulletin’s special edition “Renew and Build Exhibition”. Photo by Shauna Noelle Schell/UND Today.
Image courtesy of ACUI Bulletin.

When Aaron Flynn He was notified that he had something to pick up downstairs at UND Memorial Union’s Post office, think no hurry, no big deal.

But that was before he knew what had arrived.

This was the much-anticipated “Renew & Build Show” issue of the AIA’s 2022 Special Edition Bulletin. and the University of North Dakota cover making.

Now that was the next level, said Flynn, assistant director of Union Memorial Facilities and Operations at UND.

“I’m really a ACUI nerd person and I look forward to The Bulletin in general,” he said. “But to see where we oversee and work every day on the cover, I was so excited because I was running through the entire building looking for anyone I could find. I wanted to show everyone.

“He was one of the first people I met with the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Cassie Gerhardt, and I think I interrupted her Zoom meeting until I showed her the cover. I knew she’d also realize the excitement.”

Feather in many hats

Director of the Memorial Federation Cheryl Gru Jillen She said she knew there was always a chance for UND to get into the issue, but no one expected to grab the cover — let alone a four-page spread inside the magazine.

She said recognition from the oldest and largest organization representing university associations around the world was the culmination of many years of hard work, and has been a feather in the cap for thousands.

“When you think about the journey and the layers and layers of expertise and experience from the many different professionals — designers, contractors, project managers, and craftspeople — who really put this thing together, we are all so proud to see this coverage come true,” she said.

Of course, it is also an incredible source of pride for UND students past, present and future. She said multiple student departments played a big role in moving the ball around. And in the end, it was a file student governmentLed by the 2018 Student Initiative and Voted to Increase Student Fee Making the $80 Million Project Possible.

“When the architects joined in, they were amazed at the great amount of student participation,” Grew-Gillen said. “They were excited to see a lot of student input. They haven’t seen students participate to this extent in other universities. We have been blessed so much in this way.”

Aaron Flynn, associate director of facilities and operations for the Memorial Federation, attributes much of the new building’s popularity to its highly open design and intentional use of physical space. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.


The Bulletin article summed it up this way: “What resulted from the decision was a sense of pride, energy and excitement throughout the larger campus community at a facility that would become a destination for anyone visiting the campus.

“Branded locations throughout the building and outdoor spaces are now prime stops for college media, students, and guests looking to take photographs, selfies, and other college marketing opportunities…student organizations’ use of Memorial Union spaces has doubled.”

None of that is lost on Grew-Gillen or Flynn, who say Memorial Union has only received positive feedback and increased traffic.

“We now have a very accurate way to track the traffic in the building,” Flynn said. “Even since last year (when the new building first opened), our traffic numbers have gone up exponentially. We get an extra 800 to 1,000 people in the building every day. So, the traffic numbers indicate that students are excited about the facility and using it.”

Flynn, who frequents the Old Memorial Union as a student and student-level administrator, attributes much of Memorial Union’s current popularity to its highly open design and deliberate use of physical space. He said: There is a place for everything. Study capsules are the right size for individuals or groups. Adaptable ballrooms for large events. Active student organizations, food, relaxation and games.

“Once you’re in, you can look up or down and get a pulse of everything that’s going on,” he said. “This was not possible in the old union. Students now have many ways to get involved and be a part of this UND community.”

Students gather to eat between classes. Flynn noted that unlike the former Memorial Union Café area, the current design allows students to use the space even after restaurant areas are closed in the evening. Photo by Shauna Noelle Schell/UND Today.

love live

There isn’t a week that goes by where you don’t see any visitors – and sometimes multiple generations of alumni from one family – showing up “out of curiosity,” Grew-Gillen said.

“It’s great to be able to watch everyone’s expressions as they walk in those doors trying to make sense of it all,” she said. “The history of the UND type unfolds everywhere you look – in the tokens, all the branding, the university seal on Earth. There is absolutely no doubt that you are in the UND, and it all certainly makes us proud.”

Flynn added, “We know the graduates have had a lot of great experiences and love for their old union, but when they walk in here, you can see in their faces that they’re blown away. Everything is beyond their expectations. And that’s all on the students. They recognized the need for change and stepped up to the plate.” They can be proud of a space that will continue to build the community for many years to come.”

It’s impossible to thank everyone, but Grew-Gillen and Flynn also wanted to acknowledge the incredible work done by WTW Architects, Pittsburgh, JLG Architects and Grand Forks, as well as Construction Manager at Risk McGough and Fargo in partnership with the Construction Engineers of Grand Forks.

Memorial Union is filled with multiple spaces sized just right for individual or group study, as well as for larger events. Photo by Shauna Noelle Schell/UND Today

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