Pictured above is Christy M. Pratt, director of undergraduate admissions, arranging personal items in her new office in McKenna Hall. See photo gallery at the end of the page. (Photos by Barbara Johnston, University of Notre Dame)
The 2021-22 academic year is not only the start of a new semester, it’s a new beginning for Notre Dame’s Enrollment Division. Operations have been located in the Main Building for decades. Last week, division staff moved to the new McKenna Hall on Notre Dame Avenue. The location puts the offices closer to the hub of campus activity — the Main Gate, Hammes Bookstore and Morris Inn — for prospective and first-year students and their guests.
For Don Bishop, associate vice president of undergraduate enrollment and a 1977 alumnus, the move is the fulfilment of a goal he’s had for the division since coming to his position 12 years ago. “I think in my first year, I wrote a memo to the provost saying that ideally, to treat our guests well, we needed a new space. I wrote that it should be the front door to the University, near parking and more,” Bishop said, while taking a break from unpacking boxes Thursday.
“We probably spent three to four years evaluating other admission and financial aid offices around the country, visiting several of them to just see what works and why. And then we met with architects, designers and construction teams to put it all together. It’s really rewarding to see it all come to fruition,” he said.
During those visits to other universities, Bishop and others noticed something: “Some had old art and a lot of small little pictures in the visitor space, like a little museum. A lot of it was outdated. They couldn't keep it current. So we decided to have screens where we can easily make updates. I think it’s the most modern display that you could see when visiting a college.”
That display is in the entry of McKenna. A gallery of monitors showcases each school and college and provides information about academics, Catholic mission and student life.
“Prospective students will understand immediately this community, our work as a premier research institution and our mission as the only top national university with a focus on faith and personal formation,” Bishop said.
In an increasingly competitive enrollment environment, the campus visit is a big deal.
“McKenna Hall will be many visitors' first impression of the University, and we want every prospective student and family to feel as if they have found a home right here at Notre Dame. Even if they forget what we say, the feeling of that experience will endure,” Scott Clyde, executive director of the Enrollment Division, said.
The new space also includes a large auditorium off the gallery near the entryway.
“The presentation spaces will help us accommodate our growing number of visitors and allow our admission staff to meet with families in a spacious and comfortable setting,” noted Christy M. Pratt, director of undergraduate admissions.
"The new building provides our office the opportunity to serve the over 12,000 undergraduate and graduate student populations in a location that is central to where they live and learn,” Mary Nucciarone, director of financial aid, said.
The Enrollment Division takes up the first, third and fourth floors of McKenna Hall and includes division administration and leadership, the Department of Division Research, the Office of Pre-College Programs, the Department of Recruitment and Communications, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the Department of Shared Services, and the Offices of Financial Aid, Student Employment and Student Accounts, which serve current Notre Dame undergraduates and graduate students.
Some staff, like Joyce Lantz, director of recruitment and communications, found it a little tough to leave the historic Main Building.
“I’m going to miss being under the Golden Dome. I never would have guessed that when we left for our home offices back in March 2020 because of COVID-19 that we wouldn’t be returning,” Lantz said.
But change can also be energizing, Lantz noted.