By Caitlin Graveson '11

Several enrollment offices received a makeover in 2009 which included a brand-new Visitor Center in Brother Jerome West Hall. Along with the Admissions Office and Visitor Center, the hall now houses the offices of financial aid, study abroad and alumni.

Patrick Macaraeg, assistant director of admissions and coordinator of campus visits, notes that the new Visitor Center is an effort to make Saint Mary's more competitive in the "admissions world." In 2008, roughly 6,000 prospective students visited Saint Mary's formally, making the Visitor Center particularly relevant.

The Visitor Center is composed of the Zocchi Lounge, a presentation room and a historical display filled with interactive videos and memorabilia, including a replica of a telephone booth with a video from the phone booth stuffings in 1959, 1984 and 2009.

"We are trying to communicate both the tradition and contemporary relevance of the College, with a sense of hospitality," Macaraeg says.

The experience begins in the parking lot. There are five reserved spaces for the Visitor Center, and for tours of four or less the parking spots are labeled with the visiting families' names. Otherwise the spots are labeled, "Reserved for Future Gael."

As prospective students enter Brother Jerome West Hall, they check in with student ambassadors and are brought upstairs to the lounge, where coffee and biscotti, made by an alumnus' company, are available.

Prospective students then go to the presentation room where an information session is offered about the admissions process and financial aid, and stories of students and alumni are shared.

Michael Beseda, vice provost of enrollment, was the driving force for the new Visitor Center. "We literally didn't have the space for a presentation," Beseda says. "The tour is important, but people come here wanting to hear from the College about the salient aspects of the school — what makes it different from other schools."

The goal is to create a "mini Saint Mary's experience" for prospective students in hopes of strengthening the applicant pool.

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