California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) revealed the grand opening of the newly constructed, three-story 70,000 square foot Otter Student Union (OSU) building that had been in the planning process for years, on Aug. 24. The much anticipated building fulfills students’ needs and visions.
More than 600 students, staff and faculty gathered for the event, as CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Leslie Williams and student representatives took turns speaking and sharing their excitement of the long-awaited OSU.
The event started at noon, offering words of encouragement and wisdom from the multiple speakers, along with food and snacks, pop music and an uplifting atmosphere. Students had the opportunity to gather and converse in-person for the first time in almost two years, and students were noticeably eager to have a sense of normalcy return.
The event began with a mix-and-mingle social for students to check-in before Williams introduced Ochoa and the student representatives addressing the audience. Tours of the building were conducted following the speeches and 300 plush sea otter stuffed animals were given away as welcoming gifts.
“The opening of this student center and student-funded building will mark a new era for California State University, Monterey Bay,” Williams said. “The purpose of the Otter Student Union is to serve as the heartbeat of campus, and provide space and opportunities for students and to build community, grow and develop and enhance their CSUMB experience.”
Designed by architecture firm Gilbane-HGA, the impressive and expansive building cost $55 million to construct. Owned and operated by the OSU, students can find various resources ranging from advanced technological equipment to nutritious cuisine options.
“The Otter Student Union building is one clear symbol of how the university is transforming for our future,” Ochoa said, “an increase of vastly expanded space for student activities and leadership development. It represents another vital step to enhance how we meet the diverse needs of students.”
The OSU is the new three-story student center where students can hang out and feel comfortable in their free time. Students will find numerous areas to sit and relax, charge devices or study. There are six conference rooms and one meeting room in the building where students can hold Zoom sessions. Boasting five office spaces, the OSU hosts the Otter Cross Cultural Center (OC3), Associated Students (AS), First Year Experience, Otter Student Union (OSU) and Student Engagement and Leadership Development.
“It’s built with Otter student pride,” Ochoa said. “We gather today to pay tribute to the foresight of the CSUMB student leaders and staff who began to move this process forward many years ago. Now it is our responsibility to show that same vision in meeting the needs of our students, faculty, staff and community in the years to come.”
In addition to the various seating and studying areas inside, there are tables outside to enjoy the day and get some fresh air. Fourth-year Jackson Bearbower is excited to utilize the new common spaces and seating. “I really like the seating areas outside. They look really nice,” Bearbower said. “I’m also excited for the new Starbucks. It looks a lot nicer than the old one.”
On the first floor, students can find the campus store and the OSU Ballroom which has a maximum occupancy of 1,100 standing and 550 seated. The Information Desk is located on the first floor lobby and can answer any questions students may have, as well as grant nursing mothers access to the nursing room.
Victoria Bartindale-Guffey, the president of AS, acknowledged how student fees helped to change CSUMB for generations to come.
“With our new office space, we can better fulfill your needs on campus,” Bartindale-Guffey said. “This building will also serve as a way for AS and the OSU to create more collaborative partnerships and programs that will, in turn, enhance the college experience at CSUMB for many.”
The OSU offers fun activities to decompress in between classes by having a game room and meditation room. The Rookery offers pool tables, billiards, Dance Dance Revolution and pingpong tables. If students don’t feel like engaging in the games but want to stay within the lively atmosphere, The Rookery offers comfortable seating throughout the area to sit with friends and converse.
Wendy Feng, OC3 student coordinator, informed the audience of resources available through the OC3 and its recent centennial anniversary in 2020.
“We value storytelling, intersectionality and intergenerational high points of knowledge,” Feng said. “We aim to build stronger relationships on our campus community, and we work towards inspiring individuals and communities to form coalitions and come together to fight oppressive systems.” The OC3 office is located on the third floor in room 301.
On top of relaxation, study, office and meeting areas, the OSU is equipped with three restaurants – Burger 831, Ghost Kitchen and Bok Choy, as well as one grab-and-go market: The Sea Store. Starbucks is located on the first level for coffee and tea lovers.
Third-year Veronica Alvarado shared her appreciation for the new building and the resources students can make use of. “I think it’s nice how they built a new building for the students to sit and relax along with the new Starbucks,” Alvarado said. “It offers more jobs and opportunities for students.”
Upgraded technology exists in the OSU building for students and visitors to utilize. Free wifi connection is available throughout the building, while the conference rooms boast digital screens, video projection and livestreaming capabilities.
Hamza Saleem, chair for OSU board of directors, spoke on the meaning of OSU and its powerful impact on the student CSUMB community. “Our values include fostering communities, fallen voices, cultivating social justice and rooted in care,” Saleem said. “As a student, we all wanted a space and environment that could help us thrive, a space where we can be ourselves and feel like home. OSU provides us with the space, where we can grow as individuals and also as a community.”
Adding to the positive resources the OSU supplies students, the building creates a safe and inclusive space by providing gender-neutral restrooms – keeping true to CSUMB’s promise of granting students a diverse and equitable environment.
Students, staff, faculty and associates have been filled with anticipation over the opening. Denise Salao of the Early Outreach & Support Programs expressed her excitement, noting the contagious energy students gave off “you could just feel it in the air.”
The building is open for students to access Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to midnight and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. There is ADA accessibility at all main entrances, elevators and restrooms.