DCU unveiled on Thursday their new €15 million state of the art student centre ‘the U’ following a formal address by President Michael D Higgins.
The U, comprising of four floors and spanning 5,500 square metres, will cater to over 17,000 students currently in the university.
The centre will welcome an estimated 50,000 students in the next decade. It was funded entirely through donations from the Tony Ryan Trust, Bank of Ireland, DCU Commercial activities, alongside €8 million raised from student levees.
“The building embodies DCU’s values and our mission ‘to transform lives and societies,” said DCU President Brian MacCraith. He continued: “It reflects a university ethos where the development of the individual in all their strengths is central to what we do. A university that stands for educational opportunity – a university that would prefer to be known as inclusive rather than exclusive.”
President Higgins said: “It’s a building that works and I congratulate the President and the student body for making it successful.”
Higgins also strongly encouraged all students to take advantage of the U’s new venues for arts and culture.
He concluded his speech by saying that he hoped that for the 50,000 students that will use this facility in the coming decades, the building will become a home.
The new arts and culture venues include a 2,000 person performance area for large events on campus.
Other facilities include a ‘Global Village’, a space for all students of over 115 nationalities to celebrate the diversity of cultural and ethnic backgrounds on campus.
An Entrepreneurial and Innovation Hub for both commercial and social initiatives has been organised within the centre. Chair of DCU Enactus, Terence Rooney said that new areas are “absolutely fantastic, I’m blown away by how big it is… it looks like it’s really just going to increase student engagement and society life by so much”.
The U will support 115 clubs and societies currently organised on campus through meeting and engagement areas, including a new FM studio. Deputy of DCUFM Dylan Mangan said:
“I was calling the old studio a glorified shed of a room, because that’s pretty much what it was. I think just from looking at this you can tell its lot more than a shed. So, it’s fantastic, we’re very happy with it.”
Additionally, the new student hub includes specially designed ‘Escape Pods’ created specifically for students with autism. This reflects DCU’s previous commitment to be the world’s first autism friendly university.
While talking about these facilities Higgins spoke of the importance of catering to all students’ needs. “For in a students’ world there are particular stresses and worries,” he said.
He spoke of the pressures of self image, exams, developing sexualities, and other stresses. “No young person should deal with them alone, nor should feel like they must deal with them alone,” said Higgins.
“Ireland’s young people’s mental well being is all of our responsibility”. Higgins continued, “DCU is clearly conscious of this and of the increasing challenges of mental health issues among the student body. The new Leadership and Life Skills course will become a hub of support for students”.
The centre was originally conceived by DCU Students’ Union 2012/13 President Paul Doherty who was present at the opening. Today, current SU President Vito Moloney Burke said: “seven sabbatical teams have been involved in this process and carried the torch; today is the day we say thank you to them. It took a lot of grit and determination…”
The building was originally planned to open earlier in the year but was delayed. Last year’s DCUSU President Niall Behan said: “I was probably a bit over-optimistic that it would be open last February… but as far as building and construction goes, at least it’s open. We’re in Ireland so this could never have opened, so it’s great to see that it actually is finally finished.” Current students are also relieved to finally have their student centre. “I think last year we were a bit lost on the breaks and stuff but now that this is it here it’s a place to hang out and a meeting spot and since it’s new it’s really nice and comfortable,” said MINT student Ben Brelfie
DCU’s next project will be a €50m science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) facility at the Collins Avenue entrance of the Glasnevin campus. The project has received €24m from the Department of Education and Skill and has been earmarked for 2021.
Doherty said he was blown away by the changes made on campus so far and suggested that the development on the Henry Grattan building would be the next logical step: “it was built for a specific time and worked for its function for a long long time, but times have changed.”
Emily Sheahan & Callum Lavery
Image Credit: Emily Sheahan