Otter Student Union grand opening fulfills students’ vision

Photo: A crowd at the OSU Grand Opening event

About 600 people registered to attend the grand opening.

August 25, 2021

By Walter Ryce

The Otter Student Union grand opening on Aug. 24 began with a mix-and-mingle reception. That gave attendees — students, staff, and community partners, most wearing their masks outside and inside — a relaxed and open-ended period to find each other and chat, snack, explore the building, register and check in (644 people registered), and warm up to the celebration.

The event officially started at noon and began with remarks from several representatives.

Leslie Williams, associate vice president of Student Affairs, referred to the OSU building as “the living room of campus.”

CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa quipped that at the many study and lounge spaces inside, there were places to charge phones with batteries drained from “making too many TikTok videos.”

He said the OSU was “built with Otter student pride” and that the day’s celebration was a “tribute to the foresight” of those students in the past who helped conceive the project.

Victoria Bartindale-Guffey, the president of the Associated Students, said, “Your student fees made CSUMB better for generations to come”; the Otter Cross Cultural Center student coordinator, Wendy Feng, talked about OC3 and noted that it celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2020; and the Otter Student Union chair, Hamza Saleem, also spoke.

The speeches were kept brief and were followed by the ribbon cutting, and the party atmosphere switched on again as a DJ with his turntables perched above the courtyard spun youthful hits like “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo and “Stay” by The Kid Laroi, and classics like “Everything is Everything” by Lauryn Hill.

OSU staff gave away 300 small, plush doll sea otters, conducted tours of the building, and ran game contests upstairs. The offices of the Otter Cross Cultural Center and Student Engagement and Leadership Development invited students in for open houses.

Meanwhile, students registered and lined up for sandwiches, salad, cookies, and drinks. Then they made their way to the lounge areas inside and outside to eat among the bustle.

Three such students were sitting next to each other on a crisp new sofa near the Information Desk: Juan Contreras, a transfer student studying business administration; Sakura Kellar, a second-year student in liberal studies; and Macy Thao, a second-year student in psychology.

“The building is very modern,” Contreras said. “I like the study areas. I like the game room for students to hang out in, the variety of games — ping-pong, foosball.”

Photo: Students posing for a picture at the OSU Grand Opening

Students celebrating the OSU Grand Opening (from left to right) Macy Thao, Sakura Kellar, and Juan Contreras | Photo by Walter Ryce

Thao liked the color scheme, the information desk, the easy-to-read map on the flat screen. Asked how they felt being back in person, Thoa responded, “Being in-person is more engaging. It feels good to be around people. It’s easier to make friends.”

They are good examples.

They only met the Friday prior after move-in, hanging out at their new residence hall while waiting for the Otter Experience dinner. They asked each other where it was taking place, then went together. The next day they went to the OSU game room and played games. On the Tuesday of the OSU grand opening, they attended and ate lunch together.

At the end of the festivities, Diana Ballesteros, OSU’s associate director of operations, helped fold up and stack the portable stage with a crew.

“This was a good opportunity for campus leaders to welcome people,” she said. “They’re building community before our eyes.”

And now that the campus is open again, the Otter Student Union — which will be open 7 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays — can help that effort in a big way.

“This is a major milestone for the campus,” said President Ochoa, mingling among the crowd. “It’s as important and as transformational as the [Tanimura and Antle] Library opening. This building will host the type of student life we look for on campus.”

For more information about the Otter Student Union, go to the website.