Otter Student Union celebrates its one-year anniversary

Otter Student Union

Otter Student Union | By Brent Dundore-Arias

August 30, 2022

By Marielle Argueza

Just last week at an open-house event, students, faculty and staff, gathered at the Otter Student Union (OSU) sharing slices of cake and excitement. It was for a good reason: the 70,000-square foot facility just turned one-year-old. And a lot has happened since its official grand opening on Aug. 24, 2021. 

According to the OSU Director Jeff Rensel, who is also relatively new himself, joining the CSU Monterey Bay staff last November, the venue has hosted 300 meetings and events (among them 150 outdoor events) since its operation. That includes internship and career fairs, banquets, tabling events, resource fairs, new and student transfer orientations, nine affinity graduations, a movie and music series, and more. 

“The OSU provides great physical spaces for eating and socializing and everyone seems to enjoy it,” Rensel said. 

Inside the building itself, there is plenty of room to study, meet and play. At the heart of the OSU’s adaptability is the ballroom that Rensel said in a recent interview “can pretty much be turned into anything.” The airy, 6,000-square-foot space can be transformed to accommodate expositions, dj performances, lectures and more. 

The OSU also houses several retail and eatery locations, including Starbucks, Sono (the newest eatery that offers a menu inspired by the flavors of Latin America), Burger 831, and the SEA store. 

Other prominent features include six conference rooms, a meditation room, a nursing room, and a gaming space, aka the Rookery. The Rookery has plenty of options for students to kick back from their studies, with 100 board games, a Pump It Up dance machine, table tennis, two billiards tables, video games, and more. Both the ballroom and conference rooms are rentable spaces, which are available to student organizations, faculty and the public in general. 

The building cost $55 million to build and was designed to stay attuned to the needs of CSUMB and the surrounding community. The clean modern exterior has an open plaza space, but also a sheltered outdoor section with modern buttressing that provides shade and protection from the occasional winds.

It also boasts energy-efficient construction. It’s built with insulated glass, illuminated with energy-efficient light and skylights, and framed with drought-resistant landscaping, to name just a few features. According to Rensel, the eco-conscious design will also earn them a Gold LEED rating in the near future. It was also featured in the Association of College Unions-International showcase for its innovative design. 

Rensel once remarked that the OSU — really any student union building — was the “heart of a campus,” and that sentiment hasn’t changed when he looks back at the OSU’s first year in service.
“It’s great to see a sense of belonging through the different spaces. It’s a place that brings together student, faculty and staff,” he said. “I think we provide that really strong, out-of-class experience.” 

He’s not wrong about the usefulness of the space. Some of the specific events that drew in large crowds included the Friday Night Movie series over the summer, Monte’s Music (a student performance art series) and the Work Witch Drag Show—”Which was amazing, by the way,” said Rensel. 

As for the future, Rensel assures that the people behind OSU—the AV team, marketing, and Otter Cross Cultural Center — will continue to help produce popular series like the drag show, Monte’s music and other cultural affinity group showcases. 

“We work to foster communities and help bring people together. We try to provide a variety of experiences, be it just being a place to hang out to bringing programs about the importance and complexity of diversity,” said Rensel. 

Their mission is focused on continuing to adapt to the interests of students, the community, faculty and staff.

Learn more at the Otter Student Union webpage