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'This Is Better Than Social Media': UK Unveils Reimagined Student Center

The University of Kentucky invited the public inside its new $200 million dollar student center Monday.

Students lined the pristine hallways bathed in natural light for the official dedication, many only familiar with the temporary facilities fanned out over campus during its years-long construction.

Student Government President Ben Childress hopes the new digs – and their emphasis on open, collaborative meeting areas – will foster a tighter knit community in an era of unrest on some campuses.

"I think a lot of things stem from social interaction or not feeling like you have a place where you belong," the outgoing president said. "By this place kind of providing space, providing opportunity for people to gather, a central hub to to speak, which I think our campuses lack, I think it will provide more of a place for people to form community, build relationships."

UK’s president agrees.

"This is better than social media," Capilouto added.

The top university official said the building, which includes high-tech meeting rooms for student organizations, new retail and residential dining, and a prominent two-story Barnes & Noble, owes its existence to many contributors, but only one name is set to grace the center itself.

"When I look at a space like this, it stars with gratitude," the president said. "Mr. Gatton is at the top of that list." 

Philanthropist and UK alum Gatton was among the first to step up with a contribution - $20 million, to be exact. Normally, students would have to foot part of the bill for such a project through a new facility fee. Capilouto said, thanks to that Gatton’s generosity, current and future students can enjoy the state-of-the-art center fee-free.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.