The heart of campus

Photo by Sofie Brandt

Smith Memorial Student Union is at the center of the student experience at PSU

College experience is a lot more than classes. And Smith Memorial Student Union is at the center of the student experience at PSU.

Located on the South Park Blocks, Smith is a hub of diverse activities, events, amenities and student success. With its student resources, study spaces and cultural centers, it’s a great place to find where you belong. Or what makes you who you are.

Photo by Sofia Brandt

The building is named after Michael Smith, who had cystic fibrosis while helping lead Portland State GE College Bowl team to national victory in 1965. He died three years later, and the Portland State Student Center was renamed the Smith Memorial Student Union, one of the few times a campus building was named for a student.

Smith has plenty to offer students and staff. Smith’s Kitchen food court, the University Market, Bowery Bagels, Smith’s Place coffee shop, Campus Box Office and Viking Bowling and Billiards Gameroom provide shopping, dining and leisure activities.

Photo by Sofia Brandt

Smith also serves as home to the Office of Student Affairs, Multicultural Student Center, Women’s Resource Center, Queer Resource Center, Resource Center for Students with Children, Veterans Resource Center, Student Legal Services, Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP), student government (ASPSU), PSU Student Media and the Diversity Resource Center.

And yes, there’s a bowling alley. Though Smith has 220,000 square feet of space, it is home to the smallest public bowling alley in Oregon. Six lanes, pool tables and video gaming are available for parties and open hours (when University Covid-19 restrictions are lifted).

Photo by Sofia Brandt

ASPSU’s Children Center in Smith even offers day care for kids ages 1 to 9.

Built in four sections between 1956 to 1966, Smith has four floors, two basement levels and three mezzanine levels. It was the second building built for Portland College on the Park Blocks and, while it has always been the student center, it was PSU’s central library until Millar was built.

The 7,000-square-foot Smith Ballroom hosts campus events such as job fairs, academic symposiums, cultural celebrations, live entertainment and the popular Midterm Stress Relief, organized by the Portland State Programming Board. Many VIPs have spoken, sung or educated from its stage.

Photo by Sofia Brandt

In 1968, even the Grateful Dead dropped by for a show. Meeting rooms in Smith are available for smaller events, groups and departments. They are frequently where you will find special speakers and visiting organizations who hope to supplement a college education. In a normal year, Smith holds more than 4,000 events on campus.

In the Park Blocks, the Smith Amphitheater is the place for live music and fair-weather events. On Saturdays, it’s part of the Portland Farmers Market and during the opening days of fall term it hosts Party in the Park.

Built to handle a 1960s-sized campus community, Smith still serves as the couch on campus for more than 20,000 Portland State students. For many, many reasons, it’s where you belong!


Rediscovering Campus is a weekly series that highlights the stories behind popular spaces at Portland State University, as we gear up for a return to in-person learning.

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