Emerson College students, staff, and faculty poured into what President Lee Pelton calls the “front porch” of the campus to inaugurate the new Visitor Center on March 28.
The Center, with its floor-to-ceiling glass façade at 104 Boylston Street, technically has been open to the public since construction finished last month, and is the home base for Emerson info sessions and campus tours for prospective students and their families.
“A gathering place is very important. It’s the portal through which [high school] students begin to imagine themselves as Emerson students,” Pelton said in remarks given in the lower level of the Center.
The Visitor Center consists of three levels. The ground floor features a wall of windows looking out onto Boston Common. Inside, visitors can lounge on plush furniture, access a computer for more information on the College, or just ask a student ambassador posted at the reception desk. The lower level includes a screening room, bathroom, and kitchenette. Upstairs are small meeting rooms ringing a balcony overlooking the main floor.
But the best place to see the space isn’t inside at all; it’s across Boylston Street, Pelton said.
“With the two levels of glass, you get a sense of the scale…and you also get wonderful images projected onto the walls upstairs,” he said.
The former Visitor Center was housed in the Boylston Place alley and was difficult to find. The new Visitor Center comes at a time of huge growth for the College.
This year, Emerson received a record number of applications—more than 9,000, Pelton said. The first year he was president, fewer than five years ago, the school received about 6,500.
And the next few years promise a number of dynamic and critical construction projects that will enhance the College’s physical presence in the city. Earlier this month, Pelton announced a new dining and social center planned for the corner of Boylston Street and Boylston Place in fall 2017. A new Boylston Place residence hall, also slated for fall 2017, and a renovated Little Building, promise to add 650 to 680 student beds to campus, he said.
As exciting as the new Visitor Center is today, Michael Sarra, assistant vice president of enrollment marketing, said the facility is not intended to be a monument.
“This is very much a living space, one that will change and evolve as the College evolves,” Sarra said.
Ashley Kelley ’17 has served as a student ambassador for nearly two years and is now an ambassador supervisor. She said the tour guides are able to accommodate many more families in the new space, because with more room in the gathering spaces, they’ve been able to raise the number of people per tour.
It’s already proving a big hit with families, she said.
“They really like it,” Kelley said. “They love the floor-to-ceiling windows in the front. It really allows families to see the everyday life of Boylston Street, which can be really interesting.”
The students are also seeing a lot more foot traffic and people coming in off the street, Kelley said.
“The general public wants to know what this new space on Boylston is all about and what we’re associated with,” she said.