May 27, 2010
Visitor Center unveils interactive kiosks, celebrates roomy new quarters
By Kathleen J. Sullivan
To the list of ways a visitor can explore campus walk, travel by golf cart, rent a bike Stanford has added another: stand at an interactive kiosk and touch the word "Explore" or "The People" or "The Place" on an iMac computer.
The university recently installed six interactive kiosks electronic guidebooks with individual sound systems in the Stanford Visitor Center, which celebrated its new technology and roomy new quarters on Wednesday with a two-hour open house.
By touching an image titled "Living at Larkin," a high school student considering Stanford can take a virtual tour of a dorm room a yellow paper dragon clings to the ceiling in the all-frosh Larkin House in Stern Hall on the east side of campus.
By touching the screens, visitors can watch videos students drumming on stage in a Stanford Taiko performance, giddy freshmen engaging in the Stanford tradition of fountain hopping and read descriptions of notable buildings and campus eateries.
The computers also feature an events calendar that shows visitors what's happening on campus the day they arrive, the next day and the day after that.
The Visitor Center, which opened its doors in February, is located in a refurbished red brick building on Galvez Street (at Campus Drive East) that once housed the Track House Sport Shop. The old visitor center was located in cramped quarters in Memorial Auditorium.
Most visitors are prospective students undergraduates as well as graduate students and their families, said John Friesman, director of visitor relations at Stanford. But the center and its programs were designed to be welcoming to anyone who walks through its doors, a "home base" for visitors from all over the world. The atmosphere aims to reduce the anxiety many visitors feel when they arrive at Stanford, awed by the size of the place and its reputation.
Stepping inside the new center, visitors will find a spacious room, with students standing at the curved counter ready, willing and trained to answer questions about the campus and the university even about the artwork on the center's walls.
In addition to the interactive kiosks, the center's "front room" provides upholstered seating and a pair of iMacs visitors can use to check their email.
The center's presentation room will accommodate 110 visitors more than twice as many people as the largest meeting room in Montag Hall (headquarters for Undergraduate Admission), the place where prospective undergraduates and their families attended information sessions and begin campus tours in the past. Now they will gather in the Visitor Center.
"I've been at Stanford for five years and this is a dream come true," said Richard Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid, during a recent interview in the presentation room, which is decorated with colorful banners, each one bearing the crest of one of the university's seven schools.
Shaw said the center and its programs will introduce visitors to the breadth, depth and beauty of the university before they begin their own explorations of campus.
The center offers student-guided walking tours, golf cart tours, pre-arranged group tours and escorted visits to the Hoover Tower Observation Platform.