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The university celebrated the midpoint today of the largest building project in its history. More than 300 people gathered Friday afternoon for the dedication of the new Student Union.

More than thirty people lined up to cut the ceremonial orange ribbon, which spanned the width of UT’s new pedestrian bridge.

The 142,000-square-foot building completed in the first phase is the central hub for students, faculty, and staff to meet, eat, and relax. The new facility provides much-needed space to enhance services for the university’s more than 27,000 students. The first phase of the project took three years to complete. The second and final phase of the project is underway and is scheduled to open in 2018.


“Our goal is to provide our students with the facilities and amenities of a top public research university, and we are certainly on track to have the best Student Union in the country,” said UT Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “I want to thank and congratulate everyone who has worked so hard to make it happen.”

Cheek recognized the individuals, families and corporations that have invested in the university’s strategic initiatives. They are being recognized throughout the student union. Locations ranging from an office suite to interview rooms are named for corporations and in honor of donors and their families.

Alan Wilson, a 1980 alumnus, spoke on behalf of the alumni and friends who are recognized within the new facility. Wilson is chair and CEO of McCormick and Company. He and his wife, Wendy, visited the new Center for Career Development offices today. The top floor suite is now called the Alan and Wendy Wilson Career Development Suite.

“We all have our personal reasons for giving,” he said. “We want to contribute to something we care about deeply, we want to support the good work that’s going on at the university, and we want to help to inspire great students.”


Career Development staff members are enjoying the new central location, which provides greater visibility and more opportunity to engage with students. It also provides better space to host employers from across the country to encourage their recruitment of UT students.

SGA President Will Freeman said the opening marks a milestone for the student body.

“New buildings have been finished and we have started seeing the outcomes of the long-term plans. The opening of the Student Union shows the transition from our campus being a work in progress to our campus having brand-new facilities that match or exceed universities across the country,” Freeman said.

The new facility represents a contemporary approach to collegiate gothic architectural design, which seeks to honor both UT’s heritage and its promise for the future. Large glass expanses and an outdoor plaza provide visitors with views of the Hill, Neyland Stadium, and the west side of campus. The building is built to meet LEED standards with a lighting system that adjusts to make best use of natural daylight and save on energy costs.

This first phase of the project also included the extension of the Johnson-Ward Pedestrian Walkway to an outdoor plaza and courtyard with links to the new pedestrian bridge to the Hill and the adjacent Blueberry Falls greenway.


The building’s first two levels house the VolShop, VolTech, and VolBooks stores. Dining options and seating are on the building’s third and fourth levels and include a Chick-fil-A, Qdoba, Salad Creations, AFC Sushi, Starbucks, and Subway.

A joint venture team of BarberMcMurry architects/McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects and Interior Designers designed the building. Rentenbach is the general contractor. The project is funded through student fees and proceeds from revenue generated through UT Dining and VolShops.



Karen Simsen (865-974-5186,