Crossroads for the Campus
Part of what makes the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor experience so special is the university’s commitment to providing a wide range of positive activities for students. UMHB seeks to be a primarily residential campus where students have numerous opportunities to learn and grow in a Christian atmosphere both inside and outside the classroom.
To support this vision in the future, the university must expand campus dining facilities and provide centrally located spaces where students can study, meet, and play. The Campus Master Plan calls for the construction of a Student Union Building which can meet all of these needs, to serve as the “living room” of the entire campus where students go regularly to eat, relax, hold meetings, and work on projects with friends.
“It is important that we offer appropriate spaces for our student organizations to flourish and grow,” says Dr. Byron Weathersbee, vice president for student life. “These activities give students a chance to work with others and develop leadership skills they often didn’t know they had. It’s not unusual to see a timid freshman develop into a confident senior who plans activities and makes big things happen; these are skills that serve them well when they move on out into the world after graduation.
Student life programming at UMHB is built upon three important ideas:
The university is committed to encouraging each student to reach his or her potential spiritually, academically, socially, and physically. Students are encouraged to live on campus, particularly during their first two years of college, because having a support system available to them 24/7 helps them weather difficulties and succeed in their studies. This is particularly important during the freshman year, when students usually are placed in traditional residence halls. Residence directors and student resident assistants work to make each residence hall a close-knit living and learning community, and they are trained to provide guidance for students who have problems transitioning from life at home to the new responsibilities and freedoms of campus life.
"In following the model of Jesus, we have a responsibility to think, decide, act, and live in a way that gives a correct opinion of our God. It is part of what makes us distinctly different at UMHB," says Dr. Byron Weathersbee, vice president for student life. "Our co-curricular activities enhance students’ academic experiences; as students participate and serve, God shapes their minds and souls."
Service and leadership training
UMHB has more than sixty chartered student organizations, including religious and cultural organizations, academic and honor societies, leadership and service clubs, and sport and spirit clubs. These organizations give students many opportunities to get involved in campus activities, serve others, and develop leadership skills they may not even know they possessed. Activities such as Welcome Week, Missions Emphasis Week, Reaching Out, and the annual Easter Pageant are planned and led by student volunteers, and the Student Life staff sponsors workshops and retreats to help students identify their personal strengths and learn the skills they need to be effective leaders both on the campus and beyond.
The new Student Union Building will offer expanded dining, meeting, and retail options:
- Five residential dining zones, with different menu offerings in each zone
- Three retail dining zones, with menus from name-brand chains such as Starbucks and Chick-fil-A
- Expanded and updated bookstore
- Offices for Student Life staff and student organizations
- Band Hall with 8 rehearsal/practice spaces
- Chambers Hall with tiered seating for meetings of the Student Government Association, the UMHB Board of Trustees, and other groups
- Conference rooms and meeting rooms
- Banquet Hall with seating capacity for 800
When Landra Davidson was a high school student in Clyde, Texas (population 3,768), she made good grades and had fun participating in extracurricular activities. But when she enrolled at UMHB and became involved in campus activities, she discovered leadership skills she never realized she had before.
She quickly became involved in First Year Council and from there went on to serve as a senator and an internal vice president for the Student Government Association. She took part in the student-run Easter Pageant and became an organizer, contestant, and eventually director of the Miss MHB Pageant. After serving as a member of Student Foundation for two years, she was elected president of that service organization, and as a senior she served as co-director of Welcome Week, coordinating the activities of 126 upperclassmen as they helped 630 new freshmen get oriented to the ways of campus life.
All this, and she still maintained a 3.6 cumulative grade point average. “At first I wanted to finish with a 4.0, but then I decided I’d rather have a 3.6 and be super involved,” she confides.
“Being at UMHB has really helped me become a leader,” Landra says. “I’ve learned a lot of do’s and don’ts along the way. I’ve learned that you can’t communicate with everyone in the same way. And I’ve come to understand that everyone is not just like me, and that’s okay. Just because other people don’t think like me doesn’t mean they are wrong—just different in their approach.”
“I came here not knowing anyone,” she recalls. “It was a huge leap of faith. Nothing was handed to me; I had to work for the opportunities I’ve had, and I’ve really had to learn how to manage my time. But my experiences here have helped me grow and mature. I’m definitely a go-getter now!”
The UMHB Campus Master Plan calls for the construction of a three-story, 100,000-square-foot Student Union Building between King Street and University Drive, at the heart of the university’s residential zones.
The design of the center will reflect the distinctive philosophy of the Student Life program at UMHB:
The Student Union Building will offer spaces of varying sizes for students to meet and interact, either informally with friends or formally as a club or committee. The central feature of the ground floor will be a series of eight dining areas offering a variety of cuisines, so that student diners can change not only what they are eating but also where they are eating, day by day. Comfortable seating areas will be designed to encourage students to “hang out” and watch TV or visit with friends, and a second-floor flex space will offer room for live music and other informal gatherings.
Service and leadership training
The second floor of the building will house offices for student organizations interspersed with the offices for the Student Life staff members. The suite will include large workrooms and meeting rooms where clubs and special interest groups can work on projects and plan activities. On the third floor of the building, a tiered meeting room with seating for 82 will offer a structured setting for the Student Government Association and other organizations to hold more formal meetings.
The design of the Student Union Building will be geared toward creating a lively, wholesome atmosphere that will encourage students to stay on campus in the evenings and on weekends, to take part in the activities offered there. The second-floor Student Life suite will offer a centralized location for students seeking information on community service activities as well as meeting rooms for Bible study groups. As the hub for student activities on campus, the building will become the setting for a continuous series of events that will engage students in Christian service and challenge them to explore how they can make a difference in the world in which they live.