The 25 Best Student Unions

A campuses student union is typically the center of campus life; a place where the students can unwind between classes. Many students eat there, rest there, and congregate with their fellow students so that they can decompress during their studies.

With this considered, student unions are integral to the student experience, so if a campus has a great student union, it stands to reason that the university is excellent as well. In this article, we are going to delve into the 25 best student unions in the United States. These amazing student unions are all beautiful to look at, have excellent activities, and add much to their students’ lives.

How Are We Selecting These Student Unions?

Due to their contribution to collegiate life, student unions come in a plethora of shapes and sizes that have a wide variety of functions and amenities. With this in mind, we selected the 25 that fit certain criteria. We selected these criteria based on what we considered to most enhance a student’s student union experience. These criteria are:

• Aesthetic Design and Architecture

• Student Offerings in Campus Life

• Events and Traditions

• Proximity to Other Campus Features

Now that you understand our methodology, here is our list of the 25 best student unions around the country. 

25

University of Wisconsin

At only five years old, the University of Wisconsin’s Union South is one of the newer campus centers in our guide. This newness is really illustrated in the student union’s very modern design. The building has curved walkways, wood structures, and a high-tech looking overall aesthetic. On top of this, the Union South building is also sustainable; it’s a campus center that’s achieved a gold ranking Leadership award in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

You can check out Memorial Union here

24

Boston University

The George Sherman Union opened its doors in 1963 and is a student union that has much to offer the students at BU. This student union is very attractive and was designed in the brutalist style of architecture. As a result, the building has a lot of sharp angles and in the warmer months, is surrounded by lush vegetation and trees.

Students enter the building through the Link, which is an area that BU’s student groups can promote local events and activities to the student body. In this same level, students can get food at nine distinct locations, including environmentally-friendly eateries as well. For those students who are going to be studying late, the Sherman Union also has a Starbucks that accepts the school’s dining plan. In 2010, the student union was also renovated for more eco-friendly functionality. This campus location also adjoins the school’s Mugar Memorial library and the Metcalf Grand Ballroom, which is uncommon for many of the campus centers around the country.

You can check out the George Sherman Union here​. 

23

University of North Florida

If a student enjoys modern design and architecture, there’s no more modern a campus center than the University of North Florida’s Student Union. A newer student union that was opened in 2009, the structure is rather large; coming in at over 150,000 square feet. The building has a beautiful mix of earth tones and is surrounded by lush green grass and trees. The central walkway, known as Osprey Plaza is covered by a vented roof structure that is striking to look at.

For students, the building houses several non-academic resources, including an LGBT Resource Center, an African American Student Union, a dedicated food court, and a boathouse. For shows, the Student Union has a dedicated auditorium and has a catering service for private events. UNF students will find that the Student Union is very central, with the building being surrounded by the Student Wellness Complex and the Tom and Betty Petway Hall.

You can check out the student union here​. 

22

Oregon State University

The Oregon State University Memorial Union was originally dedicated in 1929. Originally built as a memorial to those students who served and fell to the horrors of World War I, the building has grown to become a place where art is celebrated; with a collection of 300 unique pieces. The building itself is designed with columns and domes that give it a classical feel.

For students, the Memorial Union has many central functions. It’s the home to the MU President and Advisory board, which helps make decisions for student programs, policies, and operations. The union is also a home of the JavaStop, which is perfect for those grueling study sessions, and the Pangea Café, which serves comfort foods for students like Shoyu chicken and Kalua pork. The Memorial Union is positioned between the historic Fairbanks Hall, which is home to the school’s department of art and the Valley Library, which houses the school’s books and special collections.

You can learn more about the OSU Memorial Union here

21

Columbia University

The replacement for Columbia’s Ferris Booth Hall, Alfred Lerner Hall was opened in 1999. The new building features architectural features that are stunning, like an open glass façade and long ramps that connect the two sections of Alfred Lerner Hall. Out of this list of amazing student unions, this one has some of the most attractive brickwork; with a red brick cladding that is offset by intricate stonework.

Situated in the Morningside Heights area of the city of New York, this building has meeting places for the school’s student body, two eateries, and a bookstore. Being located in one of the most populous cities in the world, Columbia’s Lerner Hall is right next to the campuses Butler Library so that studying students can easily take a break in their scholastics.

You can learn more about Lerner Hall here

20

University of Arkansas

The unique design of the Arkansas Union has earned it a ranking on the Thrillist “Most Stunning College Buildings in America” list. The beautiful, stately-looking building rests at the heart of the University of Arkansas and is a very popular place among its students. The white brick construction of this campus center really looks almost castle-like and its wide entry art is a sight to behold.

Between classes and study sessions, students can frequent the Arkansas Union to meet with friends, play some games, or grab a quick meal. Not only does the food court in the union offer choices like Papa John’s, Mondo’s, and the Wok, but students can also frequent eateries like Freshens and Au Bon Pain. Additionally, for a convenience store, the Arkansas Union also has Club Red. The Arkansas Union is located in close proximity to the David W. Mullins Library and the campus stadium.

You can learn more about the Arkansas Union here

19

Angelo State University

At more than 110,000 square feet, the Houston Harte University Center at Angelo State University is a fairly large-sized student union, even by Texas standards. The building sports a very sleek and modern design that has large windows and a central tower that also has a windowed façade. The building is beautiful at night with its well-lit design. The school values its international students by proudly displaying the flags of all of the countries that have had students enrolled at Angelo State.

Students can repower through Starbucks coffee, which is served at the student union’s Freshens. Additionally, students can eat, grab a snack from the Chartwells Snack Bar, or simply meet with fellow students and hang. For those looking for more functionality, this union also is home to the school’s mailing center and its student organizations. The Houston Harte University Center has several key locations in its immediate area, including the Porter Henderson Library and the Fine Arts Building.

You can learn more about the Houston Harte Center here

18

University of Pittsburgh

The O’Hara Student Center was purchased by the University of Pittsburgh in 2009. After a period of renovation that was done in order to make the building more campus life-friendly, the student union now serves as a great place for the student body to congregate and decompress. The O’Hara Student Union is actually one of two student unions at the university and has a great neoclassical design that features white bricks and a stone exterior.

Students can use a 450-person capacity ballroom and eat in the dining room that also serves as a meeting space. Students can also get help at the Math Assistance Center, the Freshman Studies Program, and the Writing Center. While it’s not as central as the other student union, the O’Hara building is close to several important university buildings.

You can learn more about the O'Hara Student Center here

17

Brigham Young University

BYU’s Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center is set in the prestigious university’s mountain home and visitors can clearly see the some of the mountains of Utah situated directly behind this beautiful student union. The building has arches, a brick façade, and several windowed surfaces that create a very modern-looking student center.

The Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center’s inclusion of the Dean of Students Office is a great touch that makes visiting the dean very simple for those attending the university. When it’s time to dine or snack, the student union has large franchises like Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell, and Subway. Additionally, students can even play games, attend the theater, or go bowling at this campus location. This very central student union is also close the Harold B. Lee Library.

You can learn more about the Wilkinson Student Center here

16

Kansas State University

Located at the Manhattan, Kansas campus of Kansas State University, this student union is actually in the midst of a major renovation. Originally built in 1956, the K-State Union has managed to look great in the 60 years since its initial construction. It has a walkway that students can use to travel from the two connected buildings and it has a very modern-looking stone façade and stone walkways that have hosted millions of traveling students.

The current round of renovations is bringing the union up to date with a new tech lounge, more dining options, and more lounge space, but the existing features are still worthy of this list. Currently, the building has more than 240,000 square feet of area for its student body and houses a bookstore, a large food court, and convenience stores as well. Amazingly, this student union is one of the few in this list that’s open for 24 hours during the academic year from Sunday through Thursday.

You can learn more about the K-State Student Union here

15

University of Michigan

As one of the oldest student unions on the list, the Michigan Union was originally started in 1904 as a men’s unity club. Eventually finding a home in a brand new building that was developed by alumni architects Allen B. and Irving K., the building that would take on the name, Michigan Union, opened up fully in 1919. The design of this building is full of red brickwork that makes the building look almost fortress-like and imposing.

The Michigan Union has a plethora of great food options for its students, from Au Bon Pain to Panda Express. The union even has healthy food options for its students at the University Unions Cafes and Markets. The conference room at this student union also hosts the annual University of Michigan Model United Nations conference. Situated right in Ann Arbor, this student union is one of the state’s most recognizable landmarks.

You can learn more about the University of Michigan Union here

14

Cornell University

Established in 1925, this student union is one of the first in the United States. As a matter of fact, the Willard Straight Hall was modeled after the Hart House at the University of Toronto, and was designed “…to make Cornell a more human place.” This design idea came from the wife of a Cornell alumnus, and the design of this building is very home-like, with a slanting roof and several beautiful windows throughout its design.

The building has six floors and has 103,000 square feet available for its students. There are several student lounges, art galleries, and there are even resources for off-campus housing and Greek life. The building also has three dining facilities for its students, such as The Ivy Room, Okenshields, and Cascadeli; each with its own style of dining. Additionally, students also have access to a computer lab and a nearby library.

You can learn more about Williard Strait Hall here

13

University of Maryland

Also known as “The Stamp,” the Adele H. Stamp Student Union is a center of artistic life at the University of Maryland. This classically styled building has four thick columns in front and a red brick façade that adds a homey feel to the student union.

This is a very popular student union on the Maryland campus; it sees 19,000 students daily. This is because there are several student services in its interior and many of the activities as well. When it comes to food and snacks, The Stamp has Sbarro Pizza, Auntie Anne’s, and Subway among others. For those looking for a quick coffee, The Coffee Bar has been serving Michigan’s students for years. For entertainment, the building also houses a bowling alley, a movie theater, and an arcade. The student union is located very centrally on campus and is also in close proximity to the McKeldin Library.

You can learn more about the Adele H. Stamp Student Union here

12

University of Colorado Denver

The original building of the Tivoli Student Union was built as a brewery in the early 1900s, but in 1973 the building was named a historical site that was later made into a student union. After the renovation in 1994, the Tivoli became the central hub of the University of Colorado Denver campus. The building is located between the Kings Center and the Events center on campus.

Today, here are a number of amenities that are designed for the students to enjoy. There is a pool hall and an arcade where students can enjoy themselves. There is a market where students can purchase the materials that they need for their courses, and there is a food court with options like Starbucks to keep the students going.

You can learn more about the Tivoli Student Union here

11

California University of Pennsylvania

This student union was named after Elmo Natali, who was a professor at the University for over 30 years. T Insofar as entertainment, this building is home to the Vulcan Theater, which is used to play movies for student free of charge throughout each semester. There is also an area where students can brush up on their pool skills.

There is a bookstore and a convenience store in the building so that students can purchase items that they need, and when hunger strikes, there is a food court with fresh and healthy options to choose from. The central location on campus makes this student union the perfect location to host local sporting events and music broadcasts. The center features both a news station and radio station for easy access to campus and local updates. 

You can learn more about the Natali Student Center here

10

California State Polytechnic University

The Bronco Student Center is one of the best student unions, especially if you are an individual who likes to stay healthy. The building has a state of the art gym that students can use to stay in shape. There are several eating options that are relatively healthy for student consumption. This student union does not have a lot of fast food options; instead, students can enjoy fresh sushi and smoothies made from fresh fruit.

There are plenty of study lounges where students can prepare for their exams and when a break is required, there is a game room where students can socialize. Here students can enjoy a game of bowling, pool, ping pong, or even play a few arcade games. There is also a box office in the game room in case students are interested in movie tickets, concerts, or theme parks in the area.

You can learn more about the Bronco Student Center here

9

University of Pennsylvania

One of the best student unions in the country for holding an event is Houston Hall at the University of Pennsylvania. It was originally built in the year 1896, but it had a multi-million dollar renovation in the year 2000 that made it one of the largest student unions in the United States. There are 14 special event spaces that make it a great place to rent a space.

There are also a lot of lounge areas and places to eat, including Beefsteak, the Houston Market, Pari Café Creperie, and Insomnia Cookies, so when the students feel the need for a snack, they can stop in between classes. The building is located between the Wiliams Hall and the Irvine Auditorium on campus, which means that it is rather centralized for convenience.

You can learn more about Houston Hall here

8

The Ohio State University

The New Ohio Union is indeed a new student union that was built in 2010 to enhance the student experience. The building is extremely modern looking, with large windows, environmentally friendly materials, and a brick design. It is conveniently located near the Ohio Stadium and south of the Jerome Schottenstein Center on campus.

The New Ohio Union is home to many halls and conference rooms where events can be held, but it also houses the Archie Griffin Grand Ballroom as well. Insofar as eats, there is a wide variety of options available. The Union Market is great for classics, Woody’s is a pub, Sloopy’s offers diner classics, and Express OH is the place for coffee and small treats.

You can learn more about the Ohio Union here

7

Oklahoma State University

The Student Union at the Oklahoma State University was created in 1951. At over 543,400 square feet, it is known as one of the largest student unions in the country. The structure of the building is a Victorian style, and it is surrounded by lavish gardens and flowers. The four-story building is home to many dining options including a Chic-Fil-A, Johnny Rockets, and a Caribou Coffee to keep the students going.

Insofar as entertainment, the building is home to several student lounges, a student store, and a movie theater. In addition, the student union is also the location of the Atherton Hotel, which has 81 rooms where guests and family members of the students can stay. The building is located between the Conoco-Phillips Alumni Center and the Theta Pond.

You can learn more about the Student Union here

6

Central Connecticut State University

The Student Center at Central Connecticut State University is one of the best student unions on this list because it has a balanced number of offering that the students can enjoy. They range from lounges and areas where socializing often occurs to more thrilling venues like Breakers. Here students can enjoy a game of pool, foosball, ping pong, or other games.

Since the Student Center is located in the center of campus, it is more than just fun and games; the woman’s center is located here as well as some of the student government offices. There are plenty of food options to enjoy at the food court, but one of the most popular options is the Starbucks, which provides snacks and caffeine for the student.

You can learn more about the Student Center here

5

University of California San Diego

The building was first constructed in 1989 just south of the on campus Geisel Library. In 2008, the building received a substantial upgrade that doubled the size of the original building. With its central location on campus, most students can admire its modern look on the way to their classes.

There is a treehouse lounge where students can relax and socialize amongst themselves. There is a game room, a graphic studio, and a number of other shops that a student might enjoy. When hunger strikes, there is plenty to eat at the Price Center. The options range from fast food options like Burger King and Panda Express to more unique options like Santorini Greek Island Grill and Rubios Fresh Mexican Grill. Students can also enjoy Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Yogurt World when they prefer a light snack or a delicious drink.

You can learn more about the Price Center & Student Center here

4

Purdue University

The Purdue Memorial Union made this list because not only is it one of the best student unions in the country, it serves as a memorial for all of the men and woman who have fought to defend and protect our freedom. The structure of the building was designed to represent the physical and spiritual strength it takes to defend our country through stained glass windows and stone arches. There is a black and gold cross on the floor to honor the lives lost of those who attended the school.

Insofar as entertainment, there are ten bowling lanes, 12 pool tables, and plenty of games that can keep the students entertained. On the ground floor of the union, there is an 1869 Tap Room, which is an older style pub that is designed for students over the age of 21 to enjoy. There are plenty of delicious food options in the pub, but for students who are not quite 21, there are a number of other food options to select from, including sushi, pizza, and Mexican delights.

You can learn more about the Memorial Union here

3

Illinois Institute of Technology

Another one of the most uniquely amazing student unions in the country is the McCormick Tribune Campus Center. It is a uniquely designed building that was opened in 2003. The interior architecture of the building represents street ways like you would see in Paris. The building has a large tunnel going over the top of the first floor, which is designed as a throughway for the “L” train to travel. The tracks are enclosed in a stainless steel tube that dampens the noise of the train so that it does not keep students from their studies.

For entertainment, the centralized campus features a lot of events and activities. There are meeting locations where the students can relax and socialize, retail spaces where students can get materials that they need, and there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat.

You can learn more about the McCormick Tribune Campus Center here

2

Florida State University

The Oglesby Union is one of the best student unions because it offers a lot of activities for the students to enjoy. There is an art center that hosts a number of activities throughout the year as well as a bowling alley called Crenshaw Lanes. In addition, the FSU High Flying Circus is available year round for students to enjoy practicing and performing in front of their fellow students. Live entertainment is also available on most Friday nights.

The entrance to the Oglesby Union features quite an impressive Victorian style look, and there is even a fountain in front to make it a quaint place for students to sit outside and enjoy the sunlight. When students want a bite to eat, they can enjoy a Subway sub, a pie from Seminole Pies, or a smoothie creation from Freshens.

You can learn about Oglesby Union here

1

Eastern Michigan University

The EMU Student Center is one of the most amazing student unions on this list. The building front features a gorgeous pond that ices up beautifully in the winter months. It is considered one of the best places to go between classes, and with good reason because the hub has endless options for entertainment. There are art galleries, an auditorium for movie viewing, live performances, and fireplace lounges where you can simply hang out.

When the building was rebuilt in 2006, it was designed with earth-friendly features and a lot of natural lighting options. The EMU is located in a central location on campus, which makes it easy for students to enjoy between classes, especially since it is located near the EMU Halle Library on campus. There are plenty of food options when students want to grab a bite; they can enjoy a Smashburger and fries or enjoy something a little healthier.

You can learn more about the EMU Student Center here