Wyoming Union Continues to Satisfy Students’ Needs
Darcy DeTienne can only speculate as to why University of Wyoming students like the Wyoming Union as much as they do.
"I would like to think it's because we provide a safe, open and welcoming environment where they feel at home, no matter who they are. I would like to think it's because our staff is supportive and approachable. I would like to think it's because we're providing what they want outside the classroom," says DeTienne, director of the building that has served as the geographical center of campus since 1939.
She laughs and adds, "That's what I would like to think."
Maybe it doesn't even matter why. All that truly matters is UW students are overwhelmingly satisfied with the Wyoming Union.
In the latest UW Student Opinion Survey (UWSOS), one of three surveys conducted biennially by the university since 1994 to gauge student satisfaction, students expressed an 88-percent satisfaction with the Union, a significantly higher mark than the national average of 63 percent.
Student satisfaction with the Wyoming Union has been at 88 percent or higher in each UWSOS since 2004.
"What I like most about the Union is that it has almost everything that someone would need, all in the same place," says Elijah Cox, a UW student from Laramie. "It has a good lab in the basement that I use quite often. It has many different kinds of food options, and just as many different places to eat. There are couches, tables and TVs so that whatever you're in the mood for, chances are you can be satisfied."
"I think it's a great place for students to go between classes for lunch or to rest," says Darion Donnelly, a senior communications major. "I personally like when they have concerts upstairs."
The fact that there's a Panda Express sure helps, too.
The fast-food Chinese restaurant chain has done a booming business since opening in 2008, with lines 20 to 25 students deep on some weekday afternoons. In fact, Panda Express is open until 8 p.m. during the academic year, an hour later than other restaurants in the food court, to better meet demand.
"I don't know all the history, but I would venture to guess it's the most popular restaurant ever at the Union," says Eric Webb, interim executive director of UW Residence Life and Dining Services.
Adds DeTienne, "The new food options have been a huge hit -- especially Panda Express."
Even Panda Express corporate representatives were wowed on a recent visit to the Wyoming Union.
During the lunch rush one day, Webb says Panda Express officials randomly talked with UW students who were eating the restaurant's famous orange chicken or another entrée and asked them to grade the quality of the food.
The lowest mark was 8.5.
"They said to us, ‘You may have the best Panda Express customer satisfaction of any university Panda Express in the country,'" Webb says. "That was pretty cool to hear."
In addition to the food court, which also includes Pita Pit, Rolling Mill Café, S'Pokes Pizza Company and Snowy Range Creamery, the Union's main level features the UW Bookstore, CJ's Convenience Store, First Interstate Bank and Copy Center.
The main level also has sofas, chairs, tables, televisions and computers for student use.
The lower level is anchored by The Gardens Cafe and Lounge and a billiards hall.
The third floor features much of the 19,000 square feet of meeting and conference space inside the Union.
Also, the Wyoming Union houses offices for the university's student government, the Campus Activities Center, Service, Leadership and Community Engagement (SLCE) and various student resource centers.
"We've always got something going on around here," says DeTienne.
The 88 percent satisfaction in the UWSOS isn't an anomaly, either. DeTienne also reports high marks in UW's latest survey with Educational Benchmarking, Inc., and the Association for College Unions International, a worldwide organization that aims to help its 560 members in the development of community through education, advocacy and delivery of services.
In the April 2010 survey, UW students agreed or strongly agreed that the Wyoming Union was safe (88 percent), welcoming (80 percent), student-oriented (76 percent) and an enjoyable place to spend time (73 percent).
All those big numbers bring a smile to DeTienne's face.
"We all take a lot of pride in the programs and services we provide, from the custodial staff making sure that the building is as clean as possible all the way up to me wanting to make sure our students feel at home here and that they're happy," DeTienne says. "We can't provide everything for everybody but we can provide something for everybody, whether it's food or just a place to hang out and chat with friends or study."
The Union is open 7 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and noon-midnight Sunday during the academic year. The Wyoming Union operates on shorter hours during the summer.
To learn more about the Wyoming Union, go to the official website at http://www.uwyo.edu/Union/index.html.
Students enjoy the fireplace on the lower level of the Union.