Case Study: Baylor University

Increasing the flow of student traffic and interest in spending more time at the Union at Baylor University became the central focus of student life professionals in the fall of 2002. A three-phase project — which has been evolving through the past three years — was developed to create a more student-friendly environment on the Union’s lower level and first floor. Phases of the project included renovating the game room and bowling lanes and two student lounge areas. The lower level of the Union is home to the game room, bowling lanes, and new student program offices. The first floor includes a dining area and food court, student activities offices, student organization offices, and student lounge space.

An Introduction to Baylor University

Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas and affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baylor is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state and the largest Baptist university in the world. While remaining true to its heritage Baylor has grown to almost 14,000 students, and its nationally recognized academic divisions provide 146 baccalaureate degree programs at the undergraduate level. The university also offers 73 master’s and 22 doctoral programs, two educational specialists, juris doctor, master of divinity, and doctor of ministry. The 735-acre campus is located on the banks of the Brazos River in Waco, a metropolitan area of 200,000 people.

The Student Union Building was built in 1947. Space allocation of the Union spans over 87,000 sq ft. For 35 years the structure bore no specific name; it was known simply as the Union Building or the Student Union Building. In 1981 trustees voted to recognize the generosity to the university of alumnus Governor Bill Daniel by associating his name with the building. Formally christened at Homecoming of that year, this campus“living room” — which has retained and reinforced its pivotal role in Baylor life — became known as the Bill Daniel Student Center (or“the SUB”). Three areas were selected for the recent mini-renovation process. These were the game room and bowling lanes (lower level) and two student lounges: “The Cub,” and “The Den” (first floor).

Primary focus of the renovations of the student lounges was on creating an atmosphere that would be bright, open, and inviting for students. An updated and brighter look was needed for the bowling lanes and game room. But even before any of the work commenced, administrative additions propelled the upcoming renovations process.

An Administration Team is Assembled

A new team of administration for the Union was named in summer 2002. The new Union director, Scott Wade, came to Baylor from George Fox University. The new associate director, Dana Lee Haines, had 18 years of service with Student Activities at Baylor when she began work with Union Operations. Becki Majors, the new Student Union program coordinator, was hired from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. CeCe Lively, graduate assistant for Student Union Programming, began work in summer 2003. Other members of the department included a scheduling coordinator (with more than 20 years of experience), 20 to 30 student assistants, and a shuttle driver (who provides transportation for students in the later hours of the evening to the library and residences). As transition occurred in the student life area, the bowling lanes and game room — as well as special performances — were placed under the direction of Director Wade. This change brought additional veteran staff members to the department: Jim Cortez, Game Room Manager, and Blake Padgett, Head Mechanic; and Michael Reimer, Coordinator of Special Performances. Amy Reeves, Assistant Director for Campus Programs, was hired from Azusa Pacific University and provided conceptual insight to the evolving plans. Throughout the three years, the staff began a process of combining building operations and programming with the intent to provide students with a greater variety of opportunities for participation.

Planning for Change

Wade came with a vision to give students a place to consider their home away from home and a place to create “community.” Wade’s plans resonated with the university’s bold Baylor 2012 vision, which included the renovation of the Union. Portions of the 2012 vision were culled and applied to the Union to remind the team of the direction in which they were heading.

Baylor 2012 is a ten-year vision statement developed to set goals for moving Baylor into the upper echelons of higher education. Plans for creating such a vision statement began in 2000 and included broad input from faculty, staff, alumni, students, and other members of the Baylor family. It was presented to, and unanimously approved by, the Board of Regents in September 2001. The 2012 Vision includes 12 imperatives necessary for the school to become recognized as a “top tier” institution. These imperatives range from academic and scholarly initiatives, to student life and campus expansion and improvement, to reaffirmation of faith-based learning, to athletics.

In planning the Union renovations, staff of the department collaborated with students, interior designers, student assistants, and facility personnel to determine the needs and wants for changing the “face of the Union.” An upper-level fashion design class incorporated the Union as part of their course semester project as the design teams met, brainstormed, and created what they believed was a fresh, new look that would be attractive to students. Later, a Palm Pilot survey was administered to acquire from students ideas of food options and preferences for activities in the Union. All input received was combined to move elements of the project closer toward realization. Dealing with the “old” transformed itself into the concept development of the “new.”

Concept Development from Old to New

Two lounge spaces — The Cub and The Den — as well as the bowling lanes and game room, required major changes. Wade and the designers faced challenges in creating an atmosphere that would attract students. Elements of the changes included space, lighting, color schemes, and furniture. Improving the aesthetics and determining the inviting atmosphere was a priority in the planning process.

The Cub — The Cub, located outside the student government offices, is a lounge where students congregate. However, usefulness of the furniture had become limited. The furniture consisted of long, wood-based couches and square tables that were not very flexible. The furniture dated from at least the early 1980s. Wallpaper was peeling and was difficult to glue back in place. Carpet was severely stained and torn (even pulling apart at the seams) from years of wear and tear.

Modifications for The Cub included a subdued feel, with tan walls adorned with white-trimmed wood and green, speckle-toned carpet. To coordinate the areas, the student government and the Baylor Chamber of Commerce offices were also re-carpeted. Rather than purchasing new furniture for The Cub, some coffee tables, chairs, and one-seat sofa chairs were moved from the third floor rotunda to the lounge area, since the color schemes of the furniture and new carpet were closely complementary.

The Den — Renovation of The Den involved a revolutionary concept. The area had pink and sea-green foam-cushioned furniture coupled with small, white laminate, square tables. The walls and columns were one color — an industrial grey. The Den had not been overhauled since the last renovation in 1989, when it became a primary lounge area after the bookstore moved out of the Union to a new location.

Redesign of The Den provided a wide-open opportunity for creativity. Wade worked with interior designer Jan Reimers George, who provided her expertise in designing an atmosphere that students would enjoy. Various furniture samples were brought in to see how flexible they might be in the overall planned use of the space as a multipurpose area. Brighter lighting was installed on interior columns. Computer stations (with built-in tabletops) were installed on mirrored sides of each room, allowing for 12 computer kiosks. A partnership was established with the campus libraries to provide “PawPrints,” a laserwriter process for students to print some of their work from this location at an information kiosk in the Union.

Establishing multipurpose uses for The Den space was still a priority, as this area is the largest open location on the first floor of the Union. A performance stage, permanently built-in for small concerts and performances, allows for versatility of room use. Three large screen televisions replaced smaller ones, thus allowing for nights of watching Monday Night Football… or the Lady Bears winning the 2005 NCAA Women’s National Basketball Championship! Round tables and wooden chairs placed on each side of the stage allow for lunchtime dining.

Game Room and Bowling Lanes

Since the bowling lanes and game room were showing signs of wear and tear — and had a rather “plain” look — changes in those spaces involved painting, new games, and reconfiguration of furniture. Columns and walls were painted forest green and yellow gold, more in line with Baylor’s adopted school colors. Block signs depicting billiards were placed on the walls. Bowling lane overheads gained a new look with the addition of logo patterns, with the work being done during the summer break prior to beginning of the fall semester. Video machines had outlived their usefulness, so it was time to change the concept by adding more interactive games such as shuffleboard, foosball, and electronic darts. Ideas to spruce up the area included new furniture, along with a big-screen TV. Eventually, the billiards tables received lighting above each table, which completed the plan of a vibrant and lively atmosphere.

Dana Lee Haines, Ed.D., is associate director of Student Activities, Operations & Facilities, for Baylor University. She can be contacted via e-mail at

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