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NMSU’s Corbett Center keeps students in mind with latest renovation

Sept. 28, 1968. That’s the day New Mexico State University formally dedicated the recently constructed Corbett Center as its new student union. The building cost $3 million at the time and was built to replace Milton Student Center as a location for students to dine, study and relax with friends. Fast forward nearly 50 years, and several major facelifts, and Corbett Center is still the center of student life on campus.

A photo of the newly renovated second floor of Corbett Center.
The Corbett Center Student Union second-floor common area stands complete after many months of renovation and remodeling. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)
A photo of the newly renovated Aggie Lounge portion of Corbett Center.
Students use the newly remodeled downstairs lounge area at the NMSU Corbett Center Student Union. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

The building’s latest renovation, a $15 million project that began in 2014, is wrapping up this semester. The renovation was needed to bring the building’s amenities up to what today’s college students need, and expect.

“Before the renovation started, an assessment and survey was completed to find out what students wanted,” said Ophelia Watkins, who heads up Corbett Center on an interim basis. “New technology equipped study areas, roomier common spaces and a large lounge area were added for students.”

Corbett Center’s old bookstore space was one of the first to be completed in the recent renovation. Now known as Aggie Lounge, crews transformed that area into a location for students to meet, study or just watch TV on a new, giant display. Quiet breakout spaces, with tables, chairs and computer monitors were also constructed for students to meet in groups and review presentations. New offices for ASNMSU are also in that part of the building.

During the renovations, Corbett Center’s ballrooms on the third floor received new floors and ceilings. Most of the building’s second floor was also redone. It now has a new layout and new furniture with even more space for students.

“I think it’s a big improvement,” said Casey Haggard, a 2001 NMSU graduate currently pursuing his second bachelor’s degree. “I’ve seen two evolutions of this building and I’d say this is a major upgrade. It’s roomier. The space is better utilized. It’s more modern.”

Watkins said that construction on Corbett Center is unusual because it’s been renovated several times, over several decades. Because so much time had elapsed between those different projects, construction crews could never be exactly sure what kinds of electrical, plumbing, ventilation or other infrastructure they would find when knocking down a wall. That led to a few delays on the project.

Also included in the latest renovations are new roofing, new fire suppression systems, new carpeting, new doors and additional security features. The building’s eating areas, including Taos Restaurant and food court were renovated in 2012.

“It’s a really good looking space now. It seems much more inviting,” said Tony McClary, a graduate student in education. “I feel the space offers a lot more room for students to sit and study or hang out, which was really lacking before.”

Corbett Center is also home to NMSU’s Dean of Students, Greek Life, Judicial Affairs, the student ID office, a gym, computer labs, multiple ATMs and other facilities used by students each day.