Mission of the Nebraska Unions
The Nebraska Unions create environments and facilitate opportunities that bring the UNL community together by creating memorable experiences and lasting connections.
Vision of the Nebraska Unions
The Nebraska Unions build a sense of home for the UNL community.
Welcome to the Nebraska Union, one of the most popular student buildings on campus. The Nebraska Union welcomes over 2 million visitors annually by providing state of the art meeting and event spaces, key retail and food services for students, the university community, and public, is home to over 50 student organizations and university departments, and provides community building spaces throughout the facility. Regardless of your reason for visiting the Nebraska Union, you are welcome here and encouraged to stay a while!
The fact that the University of Nebraska finally got a student union is really the work of one student leader, Jack Fischer. Fischer became president of the student council in the spring of 1935 and took on getting a student union building as his project. He organized a Committee of One Hundred, which endorsed the need for a student center and the necessity of applying for federal assistance. Since PWA (Public Works Administration) money would pay only 45 percent of the estimated $400,000 cost, the students agreed to tax themselves through student fees to pay off the bonds issued for the remaining 55 percent.
Jack Fischer and the students had no support from the Chancellor and his cabinet and some Regents were irrationally hostile to accepting any federal money. Still, confronted by an organized student proposal, they could not reject it out of hand; and when the students went home in June, 1935, the application for federal money seemed ensured and the student union a sure thing. However, when they returned to campus in September they discovered the administration and the Board of Regents had not made an application for federal funding and by then nearly all PWA money had been allocated to other projects. Fischer, who had then become the editor of the Daily Nebraskan, reopened his campaign and wrote in the student newspaper, “We feel that utter disregard of our work is unjustified and that the university and the student body have both suffered as a result”. Other student leaders joined Fischer to revive the issue of building a student union. The students began collecting pledges to support the new building and by January, 1936, they had more than $10,000 promised. The Alumni Association also established a fundraising committee to raise money for furnishings.
In January, 1936, the Board of Regents finally approved the application for PWA funds, and in November they voted to accept a PWA contract which paid $180,000 toward the new union and provided bonds for the remaining $220,000 of the $400,000 total cost of the project. The Alumni Association eventually raised enough funds to provide $75,000 to furnish the new building. Both the Daily Nebraskan and the Alumni Association were granted office space in the new student union when it opened on May 4, 1938.
In the early 1950s, Chancellor Clifford Hardin decided that because the Union was being used at near capacity, a building addition would be necessary to meet the needs of current students and prepare for an expected increase in the student population. Funding for an expansion project was drastically reduced and by January 1958, bids for the new facility were at $1.25 million. The project was completed in July 1959 and a dedication ceremony was held in the fall of 1959. During the renovation, the student union was renamed. The named changed to “Nebraska Union” because the facilities were now considered facilities for all elements of the campus population: students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
The 1959 addition only met the needs of the increasing student population for a few years. In 1963, G. Robert Ross, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, determined an immediate need for another addition to the Nebraska Union. Construction for the new facility began in 1968 with completion and dedication ceremonies held in 1969. The memorial plaza was added in 1969 and the Broyhill Fountain was dedicated in 1970.
Planning for another renovation began in January 1994. In March 1995, the Nebraska Union was placed on the ASUN election ballot and was approved. The Broyhill Fountain was shutdown in October 1996 and temporary entrances were built in November 1996. Actual renovation of the building began in January 1997. In April 1999, the Nebraska Union reopened after undergoing renovations. The addition added 55,000 square feet and cost $13.5 million. It increased usable space by 25 percent. New features included a 24-hour computer lab, more lounge space, new meeting rooms and offices and a state-of-the-art auditorium. The building is a barrier-free environment and has been approved by the ADA.
Since the renovation in the late 1990s, numerous facility improvements and updates have occurred with the focus of meeting the changing needs of UNL’s students. In total, over $15 million has been spent, most notably a complete renovation of the 1st floor that occurred in 2013-2015. This multi-phased renovation included the addition of a fully licensed Starbucks, which at the time was the number one requested retail option by students, updates to lounges and the food court with the goal of creating engaging community building spaces, and a complete renovation to the 1st floor meeting rooms. In 2019 the Nebraska Union Board partnered with leadership from ASUN to develop a Master Plan that would again transform the Union to meet the needs of students for years to come. This $40 million master plan has been put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the principles and concepts remain relevant and will be revisited in the coming years.
Nebraska East Union
Welcome to the Nebraska East Union. A recently completed (2021) $28.5 million renovation has made the Nebraska East Union one of the must see destinations on East Campus. Premier event and meeting spaces, comfortable and engaging lounges, and some of the best coffee and food on campus can be found in the Nebraska East Union. The Nebraska East Union is also home to six time (NCAA) and overall eight time National Championship Husker Women’s Bowling team. The Husker Bowling Center provides a unique bowling experience and is available to the campus community and public for open bowling and rentals. Regardless of your reason for visiting the Nebraska East Union, you are welcome here and encouraged to stay a while!
In December of 1941, W.W. Burr and H.C. Filley appeared before the NU Regents to make a final appeal to have Union facilities included in the basement of the Food and Nutrition Building on East Campus. The Regents were to some extent interested in the idea, but at a later meeting abandoned the concept.
In the Spring of 1946, students started a petition movement to accelerate the opening of a Union branch on East campus. In early December of 1946, a temporary Union was opened in the East Campus Student Activities Building. The Grand Opening held on March 21, 1947 attracted the largest Ag College crowd the campus had ever seen. There was dancing, dessert, punch and two performances by an UNL student under the stage name of Houdini Jr. He is better known now as one of the University's most recognized alumni: Johnny Carson.
Chancellor James H. Zumberge asked Animal Science professor Charles H. Adam to chair an ad hoc committee to review a program statement about a Union for East Campus. For 15 years the idea of an East Campus Union did not get passed the discussion stage. The primary obstacle was financing two Unions on separate campuses. In Adam's final report to Chancellor Zumberge, the committee noted that a cooperative between the cafeteria in the Food and Nutrition Building and a proposed East Campus Union was the best option. This seemed to be the forward motion that was needed to get the project off the ground.
In the Spring of 1975, bids were extended for the construction of the new Union Building on East Campus. The Union Board and Director, A. H. Bennett voted unanimously to change the name of the new facility to Nebraska East Union in October 1975. Thirty years after the temporary facilities in the Activities Building had been occupied; the East Campus Union opened its doors on a cold and blustery Monday, January 17, 1977.
In October 2018 the Nebraska East Union began a 2 year renovation project. The renovation was made possible through a partnership with ASUN, CASNR, IANR, and the Athletic Department. The $28.5 million renovation highlights included:
- 30% expansion of the Great Plains Room, making it the premier large group meeting and event space on East Campus.
- Renovation and relocation of East Campus dining. The move to the 1st Floor provided expanded food and seating options for the whole campus community as well as students on meal plans.
- Husker Bowling Center was upgraded to expand the women’s varsity team space as well as enhance the Husker Experience for all bowlers using the space.
- New Starbucks located at the new South Entrance connected to Legacy Plaza.
- New and increased lounges and study rooms for building community.
Completed in 2021, the Nebraska East Union is positioned to serve students and the UNL community for years to come. It truly is a gem on UNL’s East Campus!