EDITORIAL: Austin Hall’s facelift

Think back to your first tour of Villanova. You drove down Lancaster Avenue with your parents, probably confused about exactly where to park. Then, you had to find the Office of University Admission. After asking a few friendly students for directions to the nondescript building, you walked to Austin Hall.

The building, in the middle of campus, is hardly Villanova’s best welcome mat for prospective students. It doesn’t stand out; Austin has no distinctive architecural characteristics. Think about Notre Dame’s iconic admissions building; it’s that very building that has earned them the nickname “the golden domers.”

Also, the building is in the middle of campus. That’s great for a central location but hard for prospective students and their parents to find. Most have to wander around campus trying to find the unmarked location of the Admission office.

If you’ve ever stepped foot in Austin Hall, you’ve also noticed how cramped it is. The set-up is nice enough, but add a few dozen prospective students and their families and it gets crowded very quickly. This will change in a few weeks’ time.

The Admissions office is the point of origin for campus tours, but not a functional space for this purpose. Blue Key tour guides are quick to point out the problems presented by the shared entrance and exit to the space. Families going out for their tours meet latecomers head on, creating a chaotic start to a Villanova visit.

The new Austin Hall will include a “welcome wall” and large replica of the Villanova seal, allowing Villanova to put a much more personal stamp on visitors’ initial experiences.

The new entrance location, facing Lancaster Avenue, is also part of a larger plan for campus tours. The parking lot across from the Church is now designated as visitor parking; visitors will be able to walk up the path to the Church and past the cemetary, unifying their entry points to campus. Instead of approaching the Admission office via Ithan Avenue and the Quad, or passing through Dougherty Drive, visitors will pass by Villanova’s most iconic building, the Church.

No student obviously chooses to attend a university based on the campus Admissions building, but renovating Austin Hall is an important piece of improving Villanova’s campus.

Visiting the Admissions building is likely one of the first points of contact that a prospective student has with Villanova. The new, more unified look gives the Admission office a stronger sense of place. Now, it’s obviously the Admission office at Villanova, not a generic college admissions office.

The addition of a pond by the new entrance helps add distinction to the building and will generally improve the look of that area of campus. Overall, the changes are much needed and a good investment for the University.

The tour experience at Villanova is overwhelmingly positive, and Blue Key and Admissions work hard to make it memorable to prospective students and their families. The renovations to Austin Hall will add to students’ first positive impressions of Villanova.