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Visitor center boosts campus tour turnout

The University's alma mater "On the Banks of the Old Raritan" playing through the speakers is one of the first University hallmarks that can be noticed upon entering the new Rutgers Visitor Center on Busch campus.

Since the Oct. 21 opening, 11,832 people have visited the center and taken a tour, said Director of Recruitment for Undergraduate Admissions Nancy Pullen. Tour visitors have increased by 21 percent since this time last fall.

The center is designed to offer a memorable welcome to first-time visitors and prospective students, to serve as a source of pride and a gathering place for the University community, according to the official news release.

Prospective students are not the only people visiting. Alumni, potential donors, faculty, staff, football fans and school counselors also pass through the Rutgers Visitor Center, she said.

"I'd say there are at least 150 people per day, but at many times much more," said Samantha Brever, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and Scarlet Ambassador. "Today we only had 40 people, but last Friday we had 450."

Previous tours and meeting places for prospective students were offered in Van Nest Hall located on the College Avenue campus, as well as the Busch Student Center.

"Van Nest is one of the original buildings here at Rutgers and it is really small, so we needed more space to accommodate all the prospective students we have," Brever said. "We now have [more than] 200 people per session. Before we could only fit 45 people."

The Rutgers Visitor Center is a 12,000-square-foot, two-story, multi-use building containing exhibition space, banquet facilities and office space, according to the Rutgers Visitor Center fact sheet.

The center also offers exhibits such as an interactive touch screen Google map that shows the University's global reach. There is also a timeline starting from when Queens College was founded in 1766 to more recent times, such as a picture showing the Dalai Lama at Rutgers Stadium in 2004.

There are also three meeting rooms available for student introductory programs, general University meetings and banquet functions.

The building was projected to host upward of 170,000 visitors annually for admissions tours, banquets, meetings and other events, according to the release.

The demand for campus visits continues to increase, by as much as 21 percent during the fall of 2008, Pullen said.

The cost of the Rutgers Visitor Center is valued at $7.54-million with $5 million coming from the University, according to the fact sheet. Although the balance is expected to be raised from donations, such as a $700,000 donation from the Rutgers College Class of 1951 and $66,000 from alumni of other classes.

Student organizations are allowed to hold meetings, and a meeting of the Rutgers University Student Assembly was previously held at the visitor center, Pullen said.

"I haven't seen any [student organizations] yet, other than the Future Scholars Program," Brever said. "President [Richard L.] McCormick does hold events here, such as a recent Board of Governors meeting, as well as a tailgate."

West Virginia University has previously sent representatives to the Rutgers Visitor Center to help model their own visitor center, she said.

There are plans for additions to the visitor center, such as adding more interactive displays to tell the Rutgers story, Pullen said. There are also plans to pave more handicap parking spaces near the building, more trees to be planted in the spring and a New Jersey garden along the front pathway with plants native to the state.

The Rutgers Visitor Center is open to all from Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. and on select weekend dates, according to Web site. It is also open two hours prior to kickoff on football game days.

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