New student union on the way for William Carey

By HASKEL BURNS,

William Carey University hasn’t slowed down one bit in recovering from the January 2017 tornado that destroyed several buildings on the college’s campus, with only one major building left to be rebuilt: a new student center.

Now that endeavor is about to be realized, as a brand-new William Carey University Student Union is expected to be ready within the next year and a half at 710 William Carey Parkway. The move is made possible by a recent variance granted by Hattiesburg City Council that will allow a height of 54 feet for the building, rather than the usual 35 feet or three stories.

“Certainly, we are very excited, and in some ways the tornado contributed, because (the new center) is going to be on the site of the old Tatum Court,” said Scott Hummel, executive vice president and provost at the university. “The new Tatum Court is going to be on a more centrally-located part of campus.

“Of course, the old site was a very good place on campus, but of course, without the tornado, we would not have moved our administration building. But this now provided that place for a student center. But the student center is not just replacing something – it is part of the additional growth really preceded the tornado.”

The new student union, which is expected to be completed by fall 2020, will offer meeting space, room for a Baptist Student Union and student services, including a computer lab, counselor services, housing, and a vice president for student support.

“It’s going to be a great building; it’s going to be a beautiful addition to our campus,” Hummel said. “We’ll have lounges, in that there will be a lot of fun and a great time with entertainment and socializing, and then we’ll have what I call ‘choir lounges,’ where you’ll be able to relax or even study.

“And there will be a grill … which will be not just an additional food option here on campus, but I know that will be a great hangout place for our students. And not just for our residential students – and it will certainly enhance the quality of life for our residential students – but also for our commuter students. Some commuter students will have a class and not really have time to go back before they have another class, so they will be able to really utilize the student center.”

Hummel said the student center will be particularly helpful considering the growth of the university. Since Tommy King became the William Carey University’s ninth president in April 2007, enrollment has doubled from about 2,500 students to almost 5,000 students, and the number of students living on campus has increased from fewer than 240 to a projected 800 by the fall.

“In the past 10 years, we’ve built six brand-new dorms, so this (new student center) will really be able to serve our students,” Hummel said. “In fact, it’s going to make Carey a destination campus.”

Council President Carter Carroll said the decision to grant the variance for the building was a no-brainer.

“It’s a beautiful building that they’re doing,” he said. “(The property) is listed as R3, but it’s not really in a residential area – it’s not blocking any private homes.”

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