Penn has moved its visitor center out of College Hall to accommodate an increase in visitor volume.
The admissions center moved to the basement of Claudia Cohen Hall in late May after nine months of construction. Plans for the move began in the winter of 2016 to address the need for increased space. Lindsay Dussing, the director of on-campus programs for the admissions office, said she's "not on a position to comment about that” when asked what the former visitor center space will be used for.
Dussing cited an increase in visitors to campus as the primary motivation behind the move. She estimated that the admissions office welcomes more than 80,000 visitors annually.
“We have long exceeded our ability to accommodate our visitors in our current center space,” Dussing said.
Wharton sophomore and admissions tour guide Nicholas Rivera said the new center helps with high visitor volumes, as it has a designated waiting area for guests to be split into tour groups. Rivera, a tour shift captain, said that in the past guests would be divided into groups in front of Irvine Auditorium. He added that the visitor's center has a room for guests to watch live-streamed information sessions in cases of visitor overflow.
“We have that group room where we can cast what’s happening," Rivera said. "Whereas before if we were over capacity we were out of luck."
Rivera added that the center's interior design reflects Penn Admissions' recent re-branding, which focuses on "telling a story rather than facts." This re-branding includes a shift from the traditional tour format, a website redesign, and adjustments to the information session.
“That’s why all these walls are painted with stories and pictures with students," Rivera said. "Rather than like, under 10 percent admissions rate, stuff like that."
Despite the move, other admissions-related offices will remain in College Hall and the visitor center will offer the same programs.
“In the immediate term, we expect to maintain the slate of visit programs we currently offer,” Dussing said.
These slates of programs include information sessions and student-led tours, which are led by Kite and Key during the school year and admissions office employees in the summer.
Dussing, however, will move with the student tour guides to the visitor's center. Rivera said Dussing is now the admissions officer that Kite and Key works most closely with.
“It’s been a very smooth transition and the information and interactions we require are still available readily,” Rivera said.
University architect Mark Kocent said his team selected Claudia Cohen Hall over other options due to its central location.
“I think the idea of Cohen [Hall] was wonderful because it kept admissions right in the core of campus," Kocent said.
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