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The Student Union, UT’s largest building project, opened today to serve as the community center of campus, created and designed with students in mind.

The 395,088-square-foot building took more than nine years of work. The Student Union houses the offices and services that the campus community needs on a daily basis and welcomes visitors to campus.

“The Student Union is not just a building. We want this to be a place for people to come and hang out with friends. I see this space as a home away from home for students,” said Ian Crone, director of the Student Union.  “This space really serves as a crossroad between a student’s classes and their residence hall or off-campus housing.”

The first phase of the building, home to the VolShop, VolTech, VolBooks, dining options, and the Center for Career Development, opened in summer 2015.

A joint venture team of BarberMcMurry Architects/McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects & Interior Designers designed the building. The Christman Company was the general contractor.

New and Returning Offices and Services

The Student Union will serve as a central location for many of the offices that students use regularly including the Center for Leadership and Service, the Center for Student Engagement, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, and the Student Government Association.

Additionally, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions will move their Visitors Center, formerly located at the UT Visitors Center on Neyland Drive, inside the building. The center will be the starting point of campus visits for the more than 30,000 prospective students and their families that visit campus each year. The move will give students an experience as they first arrive of what it’s like to be on campus and see other students utilizing the space.

“Our team is extremely excited about the new space,” said Associate Vice Provost and Director of Undergraduate Admissions Fabrizio D’Aloisio. “It’s a cutting-edge space that welcomes prospective students and lets us introduce them to our university in the heart of campus.”

The new space also provides more room for campus tours, allowing the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to welcome more families each day. The previous space only allowed 40 people while the new Student Union space allows 150 people to fit comfortably for information sessions.

Some of the other special features in the building:

  • Welcome area information desk. When visitors walk in the front entrance of the Student Union, they will find an information desk where staff can answer their questions.
  • Steak ‘n Shake and Rising Roll dining locations. The dining area has more than 140 seats to choose from when grabbing a meal.
  • Union Station student recreation area. This area will feature video gaming, billiards, and table tennis, as well as space for small events.
  • Student art gallery. The gallery will include student work as well as traveling exhibits.
  • Student organization suite. This area focuses on learning and leadership development while also providing a comfortable place for students to relax.
  • UT Federal Credit Union branch location and ATM machines.
  • Meeting and event spaces
  • UCopy Printing and Design and Central Ticket Office.
  • Post office and passport processing center. These services will open mid-spring.

University Traditions

The Student Union incorporates traditions around every corner of the building. Some signature design touches visitors will experience include:

  • The Seal. As visitors walk into the main entrance, they will immediately see the university seal fitted on the floor.
  • The Torch. As visitors stand near the seal, they can look up to see a torch sculpture hanging from the ceiling. Complete with 319 glass flames handblown by the local Pretentious Glass Company, the sculpture is a breathtaking reminder of the Volunteer spirit. At night, the torch is lit and can be seen from Cumberland Avenue.
  • Tennessee Orange. As visitors explore the building, they see the university’s official colors on display—including Tennessee orange, Smokey grey, and white in furniture, light fixtures, wall art, and even carpets.
  • Checkerboard. The checkerboard motif is noticeable in several places, incorporated into the brick outside of the union as a nod to Ayres Hall, and on wall art found throughout the corridors, offices, and meeting rooms.
  • Class Banners. A new and exciting addition is class banners. Each class will receive a banner proudly displaying a UT tradition complete with their graduating year. These will be hung along the main corridor of the building to remind graduating students that they are a part of the Volunteer family.
  • The Power T. The Power T is found everywhere in the building including on signs, furniture, doors, offices, meeting rooms, and artwork.
  • UT history. Steeped in tradition, the Student Union celebrates the university’s rich history with a timeline wall mural on the second floor.
  • “Rocky Top.” The first phase and second phase of the new Student Union are connected by an expansive glass bridge. As visitors walk through the bridge, they will notice the lyrics of “Rocky Top” hanging from ceiling installations.


Katherine Saxon Keith (865-974-8365,