Serving as the hub of the university, the award-winning Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Student Union (LSU) at California State University, Dominguez Hills celebrates its 20th anniversary with free festivities on Sept. 12 from noon to 8 p.m.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests are invited to take part in interactive activities including photo booths, photo bingo, karaoke, and to play video games such as Mortal Combat and Turbo SF2 Champion Hyper Fighting. Gift items will be distributed throughout the celebration, and visitors will have a chance to win a free iPad 2, enjoy live entertainment, and sample food at several stations throughout the student union.
“[Loker Student Union] is the living room of the campus; the hub of activity,” said Carole Desgroppes, LSU manager of programs, marketing and assessments. “One of the original concepts of the student union is that it’s … where the community comes together and congregates.”
Last year alone the Loker Student Union was host to more than 150,000 visitors and 2,300 events. According to LSU Director Cecilia Ortiz, 17,000 people attended events sponsored by Toro Productions and 127,300 people attended community-sponsored events in the facility’s conference and meeting rooms, and ballroom, which can accommodate 500 people for banquets and 1,000 for lectures.
As well as with Toro Productions, Ortiz said LSU collaborates with other on-campus entities such as University Housing, Office of Student Life, the Multicultural Center, the Associated Students, and faculty and academic departments to provide social events, and cross-cultural and educational opportunities, such as the upcoming visit by Princeton University professor Cornel West on Nov. 1.
“For the students who are involved in the union, whether through employment, attending events, or coming here to study, we compliment their academic studies,” said Ortiz. “We see [student development] as part of our mission.”
Students have always been at the heart of LSU as beneficiaries as well as benefactors. Past CSU Dominguez Hills students helped create the common space that generations of students who followed have enjoyed.
CSU Dominguez Hills students took on part of the financial responsibility through a self-imposed tax in the 1985 and again later when they elected to increase their annual tax from $20 to $40. Today the Loker Student Union’s operating budget continues to be funded by a portion of student fees.
Greg Williams, director of University Archives and Special Collections said outside donations became necessary to complete construction of the new student union, and in the mid-1980s local philanthropists Donald and Katherine Loker helped to kick off the “Future Now” capital campaign with a private donation. The Lokers later increased their initial naming gift to $500,000, one-third of the total needed to complete the project.
Donald Loker, an alumnus of Harvard, served on the advisory board that was appointed in 1964 to find a permanent site for the then California State College, Dominguez Hills. Katherine Loker, an alumna of University of Southern California, served as a member of CSU Dominguez Hills founding President Leo F. Cain’s College Advisory Board from 1967 to 1976.
After her husband’s death in 1988, Katherine Loker continued her support, both financially and as an honorary member of the CSU Dominguez Hills Foundation Board until her death in 2008. In 2002, she became the university’s top donor to date, contributing $4 million toward the LSU’s $34.3 million expansion, which got underway in 2004 following a fire in the bookstore. Construction was completed in 2007.
Now five years since its grand re-opening, the Loker Student Union is in effect celebrating a second milestone this year. The expansion provided extensive renovations to the original space, which includes the lower first floor where the Multicultural Center and Office of Student Life is located, and the south end of the second floor that houses the bookstore and nearly doubled the building’s size to 137,000 square feet.
The renovation included the addition of entire third floor convention-style ballroom and meeting rooms and a larger main second floor food court that today includes Johnny’s Pizza, Toro Takeout, Dragon Express and Taco Bell/A&W, Tully’s, Subway, DH Sports Lounge and Club 1910 restaurants. Many of the eateries have upgraded menus this semester.
The new façade to the union, prominently seen from Victoria Street has become a university landmark and identifiable as CSU Dominguez Hills. CSU Dominguez Hills and architects Cannon Design were recognized in 2011 with an Association of College Unions International (ACUI), Facility Design Award, honored not only for the building’s physical appearance, but also how the design concept was developed and how the improvements affected the campus.
In another honor, an image of the renovated union was included on the cover of the second edition of “The College Union Idea” (ACUI, 2012).
The beauty of LSU is more than skin deep, though. The 2007 renovations addressed the evolving and growing needs of its visitors and innovations have continued since. LSU offers students entertainment through state-of-the-art video and gaming systems, informational video systems, a printing station, an eco-friendly water bottle filling station, as well as services such as automated teller machines (ATMs), banking at a Schools Federal Credit Union branch, and the newly opened Reservations and Events Services office.
Upon recommendations from the Safe Place Committee, two second-floor restrooms have been transformed into universally accessible single-use restrooms to serve the transgender and transsexual community, disabled persons, and breastfeeding mothers, and are equipped with diaper changing tables.
To continue to provide convenient amenities, Ortiz said the staff is in the process of “setting a vision for the next five years.”
“We’re trying to increase capacity as well as diversify the types of furniture that we have so that we can have social gathering places and quieter study areas,” she said, adding that there are plans to add outdoor furniture on the two third-floor balconies in spring 2013. “We have beautiful weather in Southern California. For those students who like to be outdoors, we’ll have a comfortable place for them.”
On the inside, changes continue as well. The lower-level will be refurnished with comfortable seating with swivel desktops, space for students to stow backpacks and equipment, and power ports in the seats that will accommodate multiple devices.
Ortiz said upgrade options being explored are ones that will ensure the union remains an inviting, welcoming, safe space that encourages interaction amongst students.