July 12, 2024

By The Daily Informer Staff ­­­– The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) and University of Arkansas System leadership recently hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the university’s new $33 million Student Engagement Center.

The nearly 62,000-square-foot center will become a hub for campus and community health education and engagement, student health and wellness, assessment, and counseling. The groundbreaking ceremony on Dec. 16 included UAPB Chancellor Laurence Alexander, University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt,  and Col. Nathaniel Todd (Ret.), a member of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.

Other attendees included UAPB Vice Chancellors Carla Martin and Elbert Bennett, Student Government Association Vice President Trenton Wills, graduate student Manoja Reddy,  and the university’s Title III Director, Dr. Margaret Martin-Hall. The event can be viewed at www.YouTube.com/UAPBTelevision.

During his remarks, Chancellor Alexander led the audience in applauding the students attending the state’s largest Historically Black College & University (HBCU).

 “In 2017, [UAPB students passed] a referendum to charge themselves a fee, which was later approved by the Board of Trustees. I would like to recognize them for the significant role that they played in making this vision a reality,” said Alexander

“Today, we honor the promises made to students over the past decade – to provide a brand-new facility that will advance a sense of belonging and strengthen the institution by embracing the unique diversity of our UAPB community,” Bennett, vice chancellor of student affairs.

Upon completion, the UAPB Student Engagement Center will house the following: 

  • Student Success Center
  • Career Services
  • International Programs 
  • Graduate and professional school preparation
  • Student Health Services and Counseling Center
  • Open use multipurpose and conference rooms 
  • Two food vendor areas with seating
  • Wellness Center with an indoor walking/running track
  • 4-lane bowling alley
  • Recreation area with pool tables, ping pong and gaming tables
  • 1,200-seat theater 
  • Open seating for studying and gathering 

Designed by AMR Architects of Little Rock, the new UAPB student center will include a performing arts center, food concepts, wellness center, student health services, and an ample multi-purpose space. The new construction project will also renovate the existing LA Davis Student Union building, which will contain a new bookstore, print shop, mail room, and limited student gathering spaces.

Besides AMR, the project team also includes Theatre Consultants Collaborative, Crafton Tull, Engineering Consultants Inc., and Pettit & Pettit Consulting Engineers Inc. Little Rock-based CDI Contractors, the construction subsidiary of Arkansas’ publicly traded upscale retailer Dillard’s Inc., is the construction manager for the project that is expected to be completed in 2024.

Consistent with UAPB’s land-grant mission, the student-friendly center will also provide outreach service to the Arkansas Delta Region by sponsoring community health fairs and other events to inform the community on public health issues. 

“This center addresses a critical need for the university and the surrounding community by consolidating community health information with comprehensive health and wellness services for students,” said Alexander. 

Wills, a UAPB junior, said the center will enhance the university’s students’ abilities, talents, and success. “It indicates the turning point of the university as we strive to strengthen “The Pride,” faculty, staff, and students, and we thank you so much for your great efforts,” said Wills.

While presiding over the ceremony, Dr. Martin called the culmination of the center’s groundbreaking “Progress in the Pride Day,” noting that this flagship project is one of many visible construction and rehabilitation projects happening around campus. Other projects include major upgrades to the interior of the L.A. Davis Student Union, renovation of Larson Hall for faculty research and extension work throughout Arkansas; and construction of a new residence hall – the first since 2017 in order to address the increasing demand for on-campus housing.

“We are undergoing a renaissance in many ways, and this renaissance is taking place in the education that our students are getting and, in the buildings and facilities,” said Alexander.

“We hope students will view the new Student Engagement Center as a symbol of perseverance,” added Bennett. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Persistence and determination alone are unstoppable. Students should remain unstoppable in their efforts to create a better UAPB for future Golden Lions.” 

Established in 1890 as a state land-grant HBCU, UAPB is now part of the University of Arkansas System. The Pine Bluff higher education institution offers certificate and associate degree programs and more than 40 undergraduate and master’s degree programs and a doctoral program in Aquaculture/Fisheries. UAPB students are active in more than 100 organizations, including an internationally renowned Vesper Choir, the Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South Band, the Wind Symphony, concert bands, and an accomplished athletics program. 


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