Memorial Union lower lounge undergoes renovation

Amy Reinhardt

Toward the end of the fall semester Washburn students will be able to socialize, play games and study in a fully renovated lower lounge in Memorial Union.

In 2014 Brett Johnson, a Washburn admissions counselor, submitted an application for a Student Initiative Grant when he was a student.

The Student Initiative Grant has money set aside from the Washburn Student Government Association’s funds each year, and any Washburn student with an idea to benefit the Washburn campus is permitted to apply.

Students deliver their ideas in front of the senate and if it’s passed, WSGA funds that project. However, it is up to the student to ensure that the project is completed.

Johnson’s idea for a project was to increase university spirit by adding more Washburn colors and pictures around the Memorial Union.

“I would find myself sitting around campus and think to myself, ‘If I didn’t know I was at Washburn University, I wouldn’t know I was at Washburn University,’” Johnson said.

Johnson received his idea from the large, metal black and white prints of Washburn campus life hanging inside Pizza Pub.

“I want this to be a general space where students can go and hang out and utilize for multiple purposes whether that’s studying, socializing or playing games with friends,” Johnson said.

In February, Becky Bolte, Memorial Union director, was handed a capital improvement plan by the board of regents to refresh the union with new furniture and paint for the building.

Bolte formed a committee by reaching out to all the departments located in the lower level of the union. These organizations included Student Media, Washburn Student Government Association, Campus Activities Board and Student Activities and Greek Life.

“It doesn’t seem like there are many students on the committee, but we try to make students the focus of this project,” said Blake Porter, WSGA president. “Most of the people at these meetings are stakeholders in what goes on in the union,”

The committee met during the spring and summer to collaborate on a vision, explore a variety of swatches, and choose design plans, seating and furniture.

“They were a really good group that created and grasped the vision and stayed on track with the project,” Bolte said.

Renovations started during the summer. Everything was removed from the walls, furniture was cleared out, the TV and light fixtures were moved, and power and USB ports were installed. The lower lounge painting is now complete.

“There are a lot of irons in the fire right now,” Porter said. “We might put the motto somewhere and put a few Ichabods on the walls.”

During the 150th homecoming weekend, a naming contest for the lower lounge will be held. This will be similar to the contest that gave the library coffee shop the name “Study Grounds.”

A few featured pieces for the lounge will be spun chairs and a lengthy curvy couch. Samples will be available for student testing in approximately four to six weeks. A launch party will be held after Thanksgiving Break.

The overall renovations cost approximately $50,000 and was primarily funded by WSGA and the Memorial Union.

“We’re doing this renovation because we want students to come down to the lower lounge of the union instead of going to the library to hang out,” said Malcolm Mikkelsen, vice president of WSGA. “The whole point of a union is for students.”