UW-Eau Claire plans for new Welcome Center

Privately funded Welcome Center to serve as university’s ‘front door’

Macey VanDenMeerendonk

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The Welcome Center is scheduled to open in 2020 and act as a ‘front door’ for UW-Eau Claire’s campus.

A new Welcome Center is being added to UW-Eau Claire’s lower campus across from Schneider Hall.

The project is in the design process now but is scheduled to begin in 2019 and finish before Fall 2020, according to a news release on the Eau Claire website.

Mike Rindo, the Assistant Chancellor for Facilities and University Relations, said the Welcome Center will serve as the university’s “front door” in an attempt to make a better first impression to potential students and returning alumni.

“This is designed to create a sense of arrival when you’ve reached the right destination (on campus),” Rindo said.

The Welcome Center is included in Eau Claire’s 2010-30 Campus Master Plan for improving different areas on campus.

Rindo said the project will cost $5.5 million and the funds were entirely gifted to the university from a donor. This is the first gifted project the university has undertaken.

Eau Claire has about 17,000 visitors on campus annually, Rindo said. He added having the Admissions offices and Alumni Foundations in the Welcome Center will make it easier for new and returning guests to find where they’re supposed to meet on campus.

“Incoming students, I think, will be impacted the most,” Rindo said. “Their first time they come to UW-Eau Claire they will go to that building and begin their admissions.”

Dannelle Martineau, a senior and a secondary mathematics student, said her first experience visiting Eau Claire as an incoming student was confusing.

“It was difficult to find upper campus, especially driving,” Martineau said. When she visited campus, she didn’t know the hill was closed to the public, so she and her family “drove around for, like, half an hour.”

The Welcome Center is meant to be a meeting place for people who are not familiar with the campus and is meant to expand student recruitment and alumni engagement, according to the news release.

“I think it sounds like a really good idea,” said Sam Hudachek, a sophomore criminal justice student. “I can remember when I came here for my first tour, it was a bit confusing where to go, what buildings to check out. If there is one building, that’s very easy to find and a good place to start with all kinds of resources like that.”

The new building includes a parking lot for visitors, which eliminates the need for visitors to park in the Davies Center lot while going to Schofield for Admissions.

Brenna Hughes, a senior and a secondary mathematics education student, said the new building will make it easier for guests to find their way around.

“It’s not so overwhelming for the incoming students coming to tour and trying to find the place,” Hughes said.

Rindo said current students can benefit from the Welcome Center by using it as a meeting place for people unfamiliar with Eau Claire’s campus.

“I think it’s going to be a really good spot,” Hudachek said. “When I was coming in for my first tour, that’s the way that we came in and so if you see it right there, ‘Welcome Center,’ it will make incoming freshmen’s lives a lot easier.”