University of South Carolina’s historic Russell House is looking to undergo major renovations. Russell House was last expanded in 1976, and since then the university has seen a a 33% increase in student enrollment.
The new project, called the Student Union, is a mission to "provide event and facility management, advisement and program support to a diverse array of campus-wide organizations," according to the university's website.
During a study conducted during the 2019-20 school year, three primary locations were scouted for the location of the new Russell House, which included the existing building, Carolina Coliseum and Main Street. The existing Russell House was determined to be the most favorable location, due to its location in the heart of the campus. However, the final location is pending approval from the Board of Trustees.
Kim McMahon, director of Russell House University Union, is confident the new Student Union will best meet the needs for all students.
“I am aware that we need more space (and) that we need to differently serve students. Yet, as the director of the Russell House, I’m committed to knowing what is most important to students and reframing the existing organizations to meet those needs,” McMahon said.
Renovations of this magnitude to Russell House could cost about $150 million. The renovations will likely occur over several years and take place in phases, that way the building will remain open for students to use.
There are three main student concerns regarding Russell House that are expected to be incorporated into the new facility. These concerns are a lack of meeting rooms, ballrooms and theater that are able to accommodate all of the student activities and programs on campus, not enough dining space and outdated technology.
Associate Vice President for Student Life Anna Edwards is looking forward to meeting with the Board of Trustees on this renovation project.
“We’re excited to get this project back in motion and have an opportunity to talk to the board about it and get their direction and guidance on (the) next steps,” Edwards said.
The Student Union steering committee, a student committee that advises the Board of Trustees' architecture firm and advocates for students' needs in the conceptual plans for the project, is recruiting additional members that have a desire to contribute to the success of the project.
Sawyer McDuffie, a fourth-year political science student and a member of the Student Union steering committee, hopes students will reach out with feedback.
“I’m just very excited about this. I really wanted to become a priority for the board and for the university in general,” McDuffie said. “I just want students to be excited about it. I want them to be, you know, invested… We really, really need students to come out and voice their concern and say 'This is something we need as soon as possible.'”
If you would like to submit questions, comments, feedback and/or ideas regarding the new Student Union project, email the student union steering committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kim McMahon at email@example.com. Additional information can be located on the New Student Union Project website.