Puget Sound breaks ground on new Welcome Center

The future site of the Welcome Center — Photo credit to Levi Sofen

On Jan. 25, the campus community received an email from the head of Facilities stating that the construction of the new Welcome Center would begin on Feb. 4. The Welcome Center was unveiled as a project included in the Master Plan, a plan set forward by President Thomas in 2003 and continued by President Crawford, according to the University website.

“This comprehensive plan will build on the university’s strengths and make improvements that will enhance the value of the institution for all who participate in the life of the campus,” the website reads.

The Welcome Center, which is estimated to cost around $4 million, will be located on the corner of North 15th Street and Alder. It will be the new home of the admissions department and will serve as the entry point for campus visitors.

“It will enable us to provide hospitality to a diverse group of more than 5,000 students and their families who visit Puget Sound each year. The center will support a memorable, welcoming and informative visit experience, which is known to have a strong influence on enrollment decisions,” the email reads.

“Students who visit campus are six times more likely to enroll than students who do not. The building has been designed to house all admission staff members and provide space for campus events and gatherings after hours, when not in use by the Office of Admission,” the email continues.

Although the Welcome Center is part of a plan that has been in place since 2003, the Welcome Center feels to many like a response to the low enrollment and subsequent small size of the class of 2021. The plans were announced during the Board of Trustees visit in November 2017 where many board members expressed concerns about enrollment.

In November 2018, the University reported that the Welcome Center received a $200,000 donation from the u.

“We have outgrown our ability to host students and their families in our current location, and are grateful to the Cheney Foundation for its generous support of this project and continued investment in University of Puget Sound,” President Crawford said, according to the University website.

“One of our values as a foundation is investing in facilities that will have a long-lasting impact on the community. Puget Sound has a proven track record of leveraging its facilities and campus to develop just the sort of dynamic young leaders our community needs,” Cheney Foundation president Brad Cheney said in the article.

At the time of the announcement, students expressed their displeasure at the construction of the new center on social media. Their posts contain complaints that the money for the center could have gone towards other projects that benefit or support current University students.

“I think the complaints that the money for the Welcome Center could have been spent elsewhere are definitely valid. All donations for the Welcome Center were specifically flagged donations,” Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS) Senator at Large Kelly Johnson said.

“However, I think the University should focus more on further developing academic departments, providing more money for student scholarships and creating more positions for tenure-lined professors as a means of increasing enrollment and improving retention rates before putting down a bunch of money toward a new Welcome Center,” Johnson continued.

“I think the Welcome Center is somewhat of an unnecessary addition to our campus but will do a fine job acting as an introduction and welcome to our University,” Johnson said.

The center broke ground on Feb. 4.  For more information on how it will affect campus activities, refer to the University website.