University of North Carolina–Wilmington, Fisher Student Center and Fisher University Union

Quick Facts

University of North Carolina–Wilmington

Four-year, public
Full-Time Enrollment: 14,740
Location: Wilmington, N.C. 

Fisher Student Center and Fisher University Union 

Year Opened: 2006 and 1983, respectively 
Size: 86,587 sq. ft. and 69,668 sq. ft., respectively 
Floors: 2
Annual Operating Budget: $6 million
Executive Director: Larry Wray
Student Staff: 124 part-time
Nonstudent Staff: 20 full-time


The Fisher Student Center opened its doors in 2006, with the renovation of the Fisher University Union following a year later. The Fisher Complex honors alumni Herbert and Sylvia Fisher, whose ties to their alma mater extend back more than 50 years to the early days of Wilmington College. 

Fisher Student CenterFor 23 years, Herb Fisher operated The Varsity, a grill and soda shop one block away from the college’s original location. The Varsity served as the unofficial student center until the 1960s when the college moved to its present location.  

“When I ran the Varsity, the students at that time did not have a student union,” Fisher said. “They would fill the Varsity up completely ... because they wanted to be with their friends.” 

Unique Features 

The Fisher Student Center features the 336-seat Lumina Theater, Sharky’s Box Office and Game Room, dining, and bookstore. The Fisher University Union contains dining, a passport office, post office, retail and ATMs, and the Ann Flack Boseman Gallery. The building also houses student service offices, including the Upperman African American Cultural Center, one of only 40 university-based African American cultural centers in the United States, as well as Centro Hispano, a Hispanic/Latino center. 

The most unique feature of the Fisher Complex is the art collection comprised of pieces created by current students and alumni. UNCW has the largest union student art collection in North Carolina. 

Students’ Role 

Based in the Fisher Complex, the Campus Life department is the third largest student employer on campus. Seven student staffs manage operations, including the involvement center, movie theater, games room and box office, information desk, and technology and room setup. Additional student staff make repairs and do maintenance, as well as and open and close the building. 

“Three student organizations program within the space, including the Association of Campus Entertainment, the student activities board; UNCWeekends, an organization providing alcohol-free programming; and the Student Government Association,” said Stefanie Norris, director of campus life arts and programs. “Students are the bloodline of operations and community in the Fisher Complex. Programs and services would not be possible without them.” 


Annual traditions at the Fisher Complex remain great examples of collaborative campus programming to create community. Sharky’s Game Room hosts a weekly “Happy Hour” sponsored by Crossroads, the alcohol and drug prevention and education office. The Association of Campus Entertainment collaborates across campus to coordinate Homecoming Week. Campus Activities plans the annual welcome back programming, including Beach Blast, an annual beach party at Wrightsville Beach, just a few miles from campus. Campus Life also plans an annual Art for the Masses, a program that makes original North Carolina art accessible to everyone. 

At the end of the day, however, Herbert and Sylvia Fisher’s roots run deep at the Fisher Student Center and University Union. Each year, Herb Fisher’s birthday and Varsity legacy are celebrated with free hot dogs for students, faculty and staff, and visitors. 

Contributed by Stefanie Norris and Erin Williamson

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