The first discussions of a Student Union Building for the College of Mines began as early as 1943. The Student Association began raising funds, but plans were put on hold by the outbreak of World War II and the accompanying shortage of building materials. After the war, it was proposed to the student body that the Student Association’s funds be used to erect a statue in honor of the returning war heroes rather than a new building. The students, however, voted that a Student Union Building would better honor those soldiers by providing a place “alive with student activities in which they would participate.” A Student Union Building Committee was formed with the support of President Dossie M. Wiggins and the first mandatory Student Union Fee of $2 per semester was implemented to help fund the project.
The first Student Union Building, affectionately referred to as the SUB, opened in January 1949. This first phase included an elaborately decorated Union Ballroom with a lounge and snack bar, along with a bowling alley and barbershop in the basement. By 1954, the SUB housed the college bookstore, the Ex-Students Association, and the Office of Student Publications. The building had already become outgrown by 1955 and plans were proposed for the first expansion. The school was granted a federal loan for construction, and the union fee was increased to $4 per semester. This first expansion opened in March 1959, completing what is now Union West. Demand for space continued to grow, and in 1968 construction began on a second building that would become Union East. When it opened in the fall of 1969, the SUB officially became the Union Complex and housed the majority of offices within the Division of Student Affairs. A further addition to the east wing was completed in 1981, bringing the Union Complex to its current total of 207,000 square feet which contained an expanded bookstore, a cafeteria, an exhibition gallery, a cinema, meeting and conference rooms, and additional office space. The Union Ballroom continued to host school dances and other student functions (including the distribution of financial aid checks from 1981 to 1983) until it was renovated in 1987 to become the UTEP Dinner Theatre. As part of a major University-wide expansion from 2008-2011, the University Bookstore moved out of Union East, and the space was converted into meeting rooms, an Information Center, and the Miner Lounge.
Today, the Union Complex is the hub of Student Affairs, housing more than a dozen of its offices along with vital services like the Student Health and Wellness Center, the University Counseling Center, and the Center for Accommodations and Support Services. The Union is also home to a food court, several student lounges, a computer lab, the Union Cinema, the University Post Office, the UTEP Dinner Theatre, the Union Gallery, and a variety of meeting and conference rooms. The El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center, completed in 1970 and known as the University Commons until its renovation in the 1990s, has become an extension of the Union and hosts additional dining facilities and conference space. The mission and vision of Union Services are to complement the University’s educational mission by creating a positive environment that is inclusive, welcoming, challenging, and responsive to students, faculty, staff, and the El Paso community. We aim to be an epicenter of campus life by providing innovative, high-quality facilities and services while serving as a unifying force that honors each individual and values diversity.