Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Date Available


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Executive Summary

The University of Kentucky’s Top 20 Business Plan established a list of goals the university must meet in order to become a top 20 research institution by the year 2020. The University of Kentucky Student Center houses student programming and facilities that impact student involvement and retention, both of which are mandated to increase in order to reach the Top 20 goal.

I conducted this research in order to determine how the University of Kentucky Student Center is utilized by the campus and how, if at all, it could improve to better serve the student body and campus. Survey data were collected during the summer of 2009 from student unions at twenty-four universities in one of three categories: schools from the Southeastern Conference (SEC), universities in the state of Kentucky, and the University of Kentucky benchmark institutions. A series of tests were conducted to determine how the University of Kentucky Student Center compares to the other observations, particularly the benchmark unions. The major questions I address are the following:

  • What are the purposes and functions of university student unions and how are they utilized by their campus communities?
  • How does the University of Kentucky Student Center compare to others in the areas of facility makeup and building utilization by campus groups?
  • Are there any underlying patterns (building makeup, student body size, etc.) among groups of student unions and if so, are they meaningful to the University of Kentucky Student Center?

In general, I find that the University of Kentucky Student Center does display several differences from its benchmark unions. Some of the major findings include:

  • The UK Student Center has more meeting rooms compared to the overall average; however, those spaces are utilized less. Each room holds approximately 116 fewer reservations annually than the average
  • The UK Student Center is primarily financed by student fees whereas its benchmarks are funded chiefly through facility operations.
  • UK benchmark unions have more square footage, higher annual building traffic, and more annual reservations, even when accounting for the difference in enrollment numbers.
  • A greater percentage of the UK Student Center’s annual reservations are contributed by faculty/staff/departmental groups while the average union houses more student group reservations.

Based on the findings, I make the following recommendations:

  • An exploration of renovation or rebuild should be done to determine whether or not the existing facility is adequate to help recruit better students and retain the current student body.
  • The University of Kentucky should seek ways to maximize the usage of Student Center space considering meeting space vs. square footage dedicated to other things such as dining, recreational, lounge, etc. space.
  • The UK Student Center should focus on increasing annual reservations by student groups.
  • The UK Student Center should boost the amount of annual building traffic.

The results of this research should be able to assist in determining the relationship of the University of Kentucky Student Center to its benchmarks. This, in turn, should help the University of Kentucky get one step closer to its goal of becoming a top 20 research institution.



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