Touring the New UT Admissions Welcome Center

am cutting it close on time, and for once I can’t blame it on Austin traffic. Alex Mitchell, deputy to the executive director of the UT Office of Admissions and the woman who will be giving me a tour of the new Admissions Welcome Center, has provided me with more-than-adequate directions to its new location at the Perry-Castañeda Library. But I’m turned around on the campus I once walked through every day. 

The university has changed since I graduated with an English degree five years ago. 21st Street has become virtually inaccessible to cars and new buildings, like the Engineering Education and Resource Center, have popped up left and right. The library greets me with a sleek sign. It looks like how I’d picture the future of UT architecture. It’s modern but welcoming, a theme that extends to its interior.  

Nestled right in the heart of campus, the new Admissions Welcome Center, which opened its doors this past September, is just steps away from Gregory Gym, the Blanton Museum of Art, and Jester Dormitory. It occupies a prime location, especially when you consider its previous spot on the second floor of Walter Webb Hall—a functional but old building located on the corner of 25th and Guadalupe Street, far from the bustle of inner campus.   

Executive Director of Admissions Miguel Wasielewski, who I spoke to following my tour, says he is thrilled about the Welcome Center’s new home. “I was committed in trying to find a better place to represent UT,” Wasielewski says.   

For prospective students, the Welcome Center is a resource where they can meet admission counselors. For visiting families, the Welcome Center serves as a waiting room before they take a university tour led by one of the students who make up the 100 Guides of Texas. And oftentimes, the Welcome Center is simply the first stop for someone who is new to the university.  

Before today, I had never stepped foot in any iteration of the Welcome Center. As a freshman 10 years ago, it wasn’t on my radar. My introduction to UT was an intimidating online course schedule and lots of trial and error. I never even had a map. I prepared for my first day of class by searching for Burdine Hall, ensuring I wouldn’t get lost. I felt acutely aware that while many students had families who had shown them around when they were growing up, I had only ever stepped foot on campus twice. In some ways, visiting the Admissions Welcome Center is my first introduction to how new students who have had little exposure to UT will be introduced to the university. 

As I walk into the brightly lit space, I see an art piece that occupies an entire wall. Vibrant and colorful, the mural was commissioned by local artist Judy Paul. It is a perfect blend of the university and the city of Austin. The iconic Tower is front and center, accompanied by downtown Austin’s skyline and a group of graduates with their horns up. I spot the famous albino squirrel in the corner of the piece. 

The carpentry in the conference room that is meant for presentations and dinners is intricate and there are light panels that form a large longhorn on a wall. The screen nestled into the wood behind the welcome desk blends both the modern and traditional elements of the space. It displays the university’s website homepage and customized shoutouts to students who are set to attend The University of Texas this coming year. 

“The space is very intentional. It provides the opportunities to reflect the values of the institution,” Wasielewski says. 

The Welcome Center has an unmistakable energy, too. I feel it as I tour the space without the crowds of people which normally inhabit the building (the Welcome Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. and select Saturdays). You can sense the pride that went into creating this space, which is sure to resonate with any student who calls Texas home. I wonder, though, what the future holds for the space. 

“It will continue to evolve,” Wasielewski says, informing me about a change already in progress involving the 1880–2020 timeline of the university, located in the back wing of the Welcome Center. Right now, UT is working on installing an ode to Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science John B. Goodenough, who recently received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the lithium ion battery. The Welcome Center is making sure that happens sooner rather than later. 

When I point out another feature of the space, an alcove of nonfiction books that share similar Austin and Texas themes (tacos, plain landscapes, and stories from Texans) Wasielewski informs me all the books are printed by UT Press.  






Wasielewski says there will be a rotation of exhibits from the university’s different colleges. He says there is no reason the university that educated alumnus Carl R. Deckard, BS ’84, MS ’86, PhD ’88, who invented selective laser sintering (more commonly known as 3-D printing), should not be giving out mini 3-D hand sculptures in the shape of hook ’ems to visitors.  

“I want students to be able to see themselves at UT,” Wasielewski says. 

As my tour comes to an end, Mitchell shows me one more small detail. Small but impressive, with the flick of a switch, the lights in the conference room we are standing in turn the distinguishable Pantone 159 hue (UT’s trademark orange). “It’s a nice touch,” she adds. 

I agree. The truth is, when I first arrived at UT in 2011, I felt as if I was dumped into the School of Undergraduate Studies and told “go get your degree.” 

It became home soon enough but it took time. Years after graduating I now finally feel as if I have had my official welcome. And it was very much worth the wait. 

Credit: Summer Miles (5)


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