The Student Union at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee is the center of student life there. It has events multiple times a year and invites influential people from all over the world. The Student Union at UWM was created back in 1956 when the University of Wisconsin- Madison was merged with Milwaukee creating the Milwaukee Extension, calling it the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee Extension. Back in 1956, the newly created school needed a mascot. So at the time, UWM chose the Green Gull mascot to represent the school at its football games during the year. With the newly made union only being a little over 15,000 square feet in size, the Wisconsin State College Union was open for business.
The student body was expanding to more than 10,000 students in 1963 from the original 1,500 in 1956 when the Union was built, the college looked to expanding the union as well. In 1963 the Student Union was already seven years old and needed to house the ever-increasing student population.
Stage one expansion started in 1963 with more than 90,000 square feet added to the 15,000 square feet now making the union more than just a bookstore. With a brand new union space and more students, the college looked to new colors and a new mascot with the red and white cardinals now represent the college at sporting events.
In 1972, technology and expansion was on the mind of the college again, this time looking to expand over 200,000 square feet to the already 100,000 plus square foot union. In 1972, the college gets into the NCAA Division I competition and needed new buildings to represent their new entry into NCAA sports. Building on the Klotsche Center, Curtin Hall, and Sandburg Hall were all started to house all the students now enrolled in 1972 at UWM.
Over 23,000 students were now enrolled in at the University. But, just like with all the other expansions the college did, this one came with a new mascot with new colors. But, unlike the other times, this time the UWM Post held a polling about what the new mascot should be and the student body picked an early idea of Pounce the Panther dressed in the new well-known black and gold. Pounce the Panther was born, with a brand new set of buildings being constructed to match a changing UWM.
In 1987, more and more students were now coming by to be enrolled at the university and needed more space for some lazy time after classes and just to chill. The union in 1987 had the majority of what we see today already there, but the reason for this new third-stage of expansion for the union was to repair the union where foot traffic was the heaviest.
This area where you currently see the Burger King and the space with glass windows, letting in the more natural light, was added to flow students from where the repairs were needed most. It wasn’t a big expansion but in the same year of 1987 the college received 17 doctoral programs and went on to have major successes in the coming basketball seasons as well.
With our mascot though, there was a name change for him from the name of Trouble to the friendlier name of Victor E. Panther. Looking like our panther mascot was staying, so was the now finished the Student Union for some time. But, just like with the repairs needed some thirty years after the first expansion, so too does the Student Union need major repairs and renovations to meet the styles and accommodations of today.
From 1987 to 2017, styles and technology have changed and UWM has tried to keep up with the changing times and the need for repairs, but it just wasn’t enough. The Student Union at UW- Milwaukee needs more than just basic repairs to keep things going at the bare minimum. If we want to match our newly accreditation as a top twenty research university, a new Student Union is needed to match that title. UWM has always been a place where the college changes with the times around it but with the Student Union being the center for student activity and in a standstill avoiding change, how can it be?