With 162,000 square feet of space for student activities, gatherings and services, the Hill Student Center will provide meeting, conference and auditorium space; student organization spaces; upgraded dining facilities including Full Moon Bar-B-Que, Mein Bowl, Starbucks and soon-to-be-open Panera Bread; a ballroom that can be divided into four sections; a stadium-style theater; a two-story bookstore; a technology store; the Campus Visit Center; and the One-Stop Student Service center for admissions, course registration, student accounting, parking, financial aid and student ID functions.
The new center replaces the former Hill University Center, at the corner of University Boulevard and 14th Street South. At the center’s grand opening all were invited to explore the new space.
Visitors were welcomed with guided tours, free food and coffee samples from the Hill Student Center vendors, a photo booth, live music, 2,000 food service/bookstore coupon books and prize giveaways, including two new mini iPads.
University President Ray Watts and Vice President of Student Affairs John R. Jones III, Ph.D., spoke at 2 p.m., and a ribbon-cutting officially opened the center. The building is named for former UAB President, the late S. Richardson Hill, M.D.; members of the Hill family plan to attend.
“I have traveled the world and visited many universities, and this facility is by far the most impressive student center I have encountered,” Watts said. “This facility will enhance an already terrific experience available at UAB and in Birmingham for our students, and I want to thank every student, faculty and staff member, and business partner that provided input on the project and helped make it a reality.”
Some elements of the original Hill Center remain. The original underground structural columns of the old building were used to support the new building, and recurring brick features are reminiscent of the old building. More than 185 brick pavers were dedicated to the Student Center in a campaign to support the Undergraduate Student Government Association’s Emergency Loan Fund. A plaque dedicated to Hill featuring a bust of his likeness will hang in the new building as it did in the Hill University Center.
Hill Student Center employs about 45 students, who have enjoyed the excitement building up to the opening. The new space also offers new opportunities to host events. The Blazer Welcome calendar is a good reference point for checking on planned events at the Student Center.
The “phenomenal” Hill Student Center is a tremendous asset for students, Jones says.
“The new Hill Center will benefit students in so many ways,” Jones said. “From creating programs of cultural significance and social activities through which students can express themselves fully, to a laboratory that trains students for citizenship, social responsibility and leadership, this space was designed with students at the center. Students will decide how they want to use this space. It will be a living building, a place for students to study, to visit, a place for significant social, learning and dining activities.”
Full Moon Bar-B-Que co-owner Joe Maluff says it is a huge honor to be selected as the exclusive barbecue provider for the Hill Student Center.
“Full Moon has always been a big supporter of UAB,” Maluff said. “UAB is an outstanding university, and we are excited to bring our locally sourced, award-winning barbecue as a new dining option to everyone on campus.”
Other offices housed in the Hill Student Center include Career and Professional Development, Student Media, Student Advocacy, Rights and Conduct, TRIO Academic Services and student organizations including Greek Life and USGA, among others.
The new Hill Student Center features several lounge spaces, including common gathering spaces for networking, studying and relaxing throughout the building, as well as a gaming lounge with four consoles: a Nintendo Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Google Nexus Player, each mounted in a different part of the room.
Outdoor space will be celebrated at the new student center as well. An extension to the Campus Green will greet students and visitors just outside the center with an outdoor amphitheater, still under construction, for events and concerts. The third floor of the center features an outdoor patio space that flows from the lounge adjacent to the indoor multipurpose event space, which can seat up to 500 people for a banquet.
Three picnic tables fitted with solar power technology were installed on the Hill Center’s East Plaza on University Boulevard. They are an exciting component of the plaza and greenway to provide students, faculty, staff and guests a comfortable and convenient solar-powered charging station outside. The picnic tables are manufactured by ConnecTable and can charge laptops as well as smaller mobile devices. These were selected and funded by UAB Sustainability.
The new Hill Student Center is a great and much-needed addition to UAB’s campus, says USGA President Garrett Stephens.
“It allows students a central place to gather and exchange ideas or just to hang out between classes,” Stephens said. “Some of the highlights of this amazing building include a theater that seats nearly 300 people and gender-inclusive bathrooms throughout the facility. Students can now come to one location to get textbooks, get information about financial aid and have a meal at Full Moon. It takes the strain off other buildings around campus while creating a central hub for work and leisure.”