President's Report Masthead
September 30, 2014

New Admissions Center opens

Late September moves from one side of campus to the other by undergraduate admissions and a number of other student-service offices have put a new face on how Binghamton University greets prospective students and their families.

The new Admissions Center in the former Dickinson Dining Hall adjacent to the University Union boasts a presentation room, a classroom, a large lobby, an eco-friendly wall of plants that acts as a biofilter, formal and informal meeting spaces and offices for undergraduate admissions, student accounts, financial aid and student records, and course building.

The transformation from dining hall to Admissions Center included the addition of 13,000 square-feet to the existing building and gutting and redesigning the rest of the building. With parking set aside for admissions visitors on the top level of the parking garage and the easier-to-get-to location, the new facility is welcoming. 

“For me, it goes back to the idea of first impressions, when our guests come on campus they know they’re important to us,” said Joe Tiesi, senior assistant director of admissions who coordinates campus visits. “You don’t get a second change to make a first impression. We want to give that premier impression and this is a great way for visitors to begin their journey with us. Admissions is a gateway and this makes our job in admissions an easier place to start.”

The building is a showcase, said Randall Edouard, interim director of undergraduate admissions. “It’s beautiful and I try to put myself in a partner’s or student’s shoes and when I walk to the building I say, ‘Wow, this is nice.’

“We’ve done a wonderful job with the building and aesthetics in general and I think our plan for how we will work within the building is a good one,” he added. “We will be very high on customer service. I want students and parents and anyone to feel like they are being welcomed. We are a welcome center.”

Student ambassadors and tour guides will have greeting shifts, said Edouard, which go a long way in making visitors feel important to the campus. “It’s almost the feel of walking into a five-star hotel when someone is greeting you.”

“And this is not just about admissions,” said Tiesi. “We want to extend a sense of hospitality and energy to our current students as well. Current students need to be welcomed to student accounts, financial aid and student services … We want all to feel welcomed and we can do that best with our current students.”

Now that undergraduate admissions is in the center of campus, the perspective is different, said Edouard. “Now we can’t only be about admissions. We have to be about Binghamton University now. We have to up the ante as far as customer service. We’re selling Binghamton University and all of its schools.”

Tiesi sees the front-desk operations as an information center as well. “We need to do different things and know when the buses come in, how to get a taxi or information about what’s on the events calendar,” he said. “It’s not just about admissions. We are now on the front line and need to be an information gathering space.”

Plans are under way to make the walk from the parking garage to the Admissions Center fun as well. “We want to infuse some spirit,” said Tiesi, “so we’re actually going to have paw prints leading from the garage to the building and our tour guides will escort them.

“I liken it to the Wizard of Oz – the image of follow the yellow brick road, but instead follow the green path,” he said. “We’re responsible for making sure they have a spirited welcome.”

“It will give you a sense of ‘this is a place I want to be,’” said Edouard. “A university with some spirit and that also lends to people making decision to come here. We’ve mproved out spirit, but want to do more of it.

“We’ll have the Student Association president and kick line at our open houses and we’re hoping to create a culture of spirit and of students getting engaged. We need the Student Association, the spirit squads and Baxter the Bearcat,” he added.

With 100 tour guides and nearly 350 student ambassadors – up from 3 in 2007 – spirit abounds, said Tiesi. Tour guides are trained and paid, and ambassadors are volunteers who go to their home high schools, serve as admissions greeters, e-mail admitted students and chat with them online. “There’s something for everyone – whatever fits – and the way we connect with prospective students is with current students,” he said. “It’s also a résumé piece for them. We just have to affirm them and thank them and we need that.”

The tour guides and ambassadors are genuine and add to the admissions experience, said Edouard. “They tell authentic stories, beyond the numbers and stats that we can give them. They talk about what their life is really like.”

Overall, what might be different about admissions, Edouard said, is that they’re big-time collaborators. “We want to work with everyone,” he said. “We all have a hand in bringing in the best and the brightest to Binghamton University.”

“It takes a campus to run a visit program,” said Tiesi. “This is our vision and goal to network and connect.”