Happy fifth birthday, Shalala Student Center!

Photos by Evan F. Garcia / News@TheU

By Ashley A. Williams

Photos by Evan F. Garcia / News@TheU

Happy fifth birthday, Shalala Student Center!

By Ashley A. Williams
UM students, faculty and staff commemorated the five-year anniversary of the Donna E. Shalala Student Center by signing a huge thank you note, eating birthday cake and a fiesta.

On any given day, hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and visitors file through the Donna E. Shalala Student Center (SC), seeking out a study space, heading to a meeting or getting a bit to eat or drink. 

You can feel the vibe.

“It’s nice that they are doing something fun for the Shalala Student Center,” Arnose Byfield, office manager for the Office of Pre-Health Advising and Mentoring, said. “It has really become the heart of campus and students and staff alike enjoy all that it has to offer.” Byfield has been working for the University for over 10 years.

For students, the SC has become many things for many types of students. It is a home away from home for commuters, a place to meet and discuss ideas for meeting, and a place where over 9,000 reservations a year happen.

“Having the Shalala Student Center really makes our lives so much easier,” said Nicole Manfrini, a senior double majoring in biochemistry and advertising. “As the president of the Pre-Dental Club, I used to store so much club-related things in the trunk of my car. It’s such a convenience to now have designated space here.”

On Thursday, September 20, students, faculty, and staff gathered to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the SC. Earlier that day, as the weekly performers of Patio Jams entertained the crowd, attendees enjoyed free pizza from Miami’s Best and Jeremiah’s Italian Ice. 

That evening, the second floor of the 119,368-square-foot campus hub featured tailgate-style food options and the third floor featured Tex-Mex fiesta food and birthday cupcakes, as the celebrations continued.

With the celebration underway, President Julio Frenk, Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia A. Whitely, and Nick Rau, executive director of the University Center and Student Activities Center, took a moment to thank Tracey Berkowitz and her husband, Bruce, who was unable to be in attendance, for their generous contribution. Students also had the opportunity to thank Tracey Berkowitz with a large banner garnering hundreds of signatures on it.

“We are very grateful for the Berkowitzes,” President Frenk said. “They were the main donors and you know—that’s generosity. But to have it named after my predecessor, Donna Shalala, that’s a further step of generosity.”

Berkowitz accepted her many thanks with a smile. She is proud to see her vision come to fruition and students enjoying the space as it was intended.

“It’s a thrill to see the students use the space and own the building,” Berkowitz said. “It’s important for us to continue to learn how they use it to provide more opportunities for them in the future.”

The Berkowitzes, chairs of the Fairholme Foundation, gifted $20 million for the student center. Designed by Arquitectonica and built by Fort Lauderdale-based Moss & Associates, it features four restaurants, a 500-seat ballroom center and individual offices and study rooms for campus groups, including the Association of Commuter Students lounge and the Winston P. Warrior United Black Students Office.