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Prospective students begin U. journey at new center

<p>The new Visitor Center on Busch campus is open, offering a
central location for prospective students, parents and donors to
learn about University and its history on scheduled tours.</p>

The new Visitor Center on Busch campus is open, offering a central location for prospective students, parents and donors to learn about University and its history on scheduled tours.

With the opening of the Rutgers Visitor Center located on the Busch campus, prospective students and parents will now have a stable location to go when exploring the University.

The center will provide a place for prospective students to begin their visit to the University, Vice President for Enrollment Management Courtney McAnuff said. Request for campus visits have grown almost 200 percent since 2006.

"We have been unable to keep up with the request to visit the campus, primarily due to lack of space to hold these events," McAnuff said.

Previously, the campus centers and a small visitor center in Van Nest Hall were used to welcome prospective students and guests.

"Now that there is a permanent home for the tour program, we can invite more prospective students and their families, high school and community college counselors and others to tours and other special events," said Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Deborah H. Epting.

The approximate cost of the project is $6 million, McAnuff said. The exhibit hallway and design was funded by the Rutgers College Class of 1951, which donated $750,000 to the project.

The visitor center has three meeting rooms, as well as a finished outdoor patio designed to host events for up to 200 people and area to cater meals for up to 250 people, he said. It also has exhibit space to tell the University's story.

The lobby will have a 42-by-8-foot-high "scarlet wall" that tells the story of the University in an interactive fashion, McAnuff said. The wall will also feature Google Earth and the ability to view the University from that program.

"[The Center] is worth it, since I work in the student center — we talked about having a central place to meet," said Hetal Mistry, a Rutgers College senior. "A lot of people come into the student center, but can't get enough information from it, so it's good that they can learn about Rutgers and start their tours from the new center."

There are also touch screen panels showing student-produced content from RU-tv, Epting said. As additional funding is raised, more interactive exhibits are planned to present academics, alumni achievements, student life and athletics.

More than 175,000 people such as prospective students, parents, faculty, staff and members of the community are projected to come through the visitor center each year, McAnuff said. The actual construction of the visitor center started in November 2008 and opened on Sept. 8.

"Other locations have been looked at over the years, most recently the Gateway project, but parking on the College Avenue campus would not have been as convenient," he said.

Students had mixed opinions about the spending to build the visitor center.

"In the long run, the visitor center will attract more people to Rutgers, it might bring in people that might not of otherwise came here," said Lana Okhapkina, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "But right now, I think that Rutgers could have put the money elsewhere."

The facility is primarily for prospective students, but will be available for use of the University community when not being used for prospective student events, McAnuff said. But the visitor center will be open to anyone who wants to find more information about the University.

"If it does what it's meant for, then I think [the visitor center] would be worth it because it would probably bring in more money and more people that want to come [to the University]," said Drew Finley, a School of Engineering first-year student.

Busch campus was chosen primarily due to easy access from Route 18 and the ability to provide parking to about 250 visitors, McAnuff said.

In addition, using this parking lot was better for the environment and presented significant cost savings, Epting said.

"The visitor center was an important investment for the future of the University," she said. "It's vital that we have a place where prospective students, residents of the state, potential donors and others can come and learn about the University's contributions to the state and the world through our teaching, research and service."

Visit www.dailytargum.com to view a tour of the center with McAnuff.

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