The new Wilhelmina Cullen Admission Building, which will be the first “green” building at Southwestern, will officially open for business Jan. 21. 

The one-story, 9,602 square-foot building will house all of Southwestern’s Enrollment Management staff, including admission counselors and financial assistance staff. 

The $3.3 million building was funded by a gift from the Cullen Trust for Higher Education. The late Wilhelmina Cullen was the daughter of Roy and Lillie Cullen, for whom Southwestern’s existing Cullen Building is named.

Tom Oliver, vice president for enrollment management services, said the new building will enable his staff to better host the growing number of visitors to campus. This year campus visits are up 15 to 20 percent. The new building has three to four times the reception space of the old admission office on the first floor of the original Cullen Building.

“Our old space was not big enough if we had 30, 40 or 50 people coming for a visit,” Oliver said. He added that the new building, which has natural light, a high ceiling and contemporary furniture, “feels much more inviting and professional.” 

The new building also has a presentation room that will enable admission representatives to hold information sessions right in their building. Before, they had to go wherever there was an available classroom on campus. “This will save us time getting from one event to the next,” Oliver said.

 The new building also has a data processing area that is twice the size of the office’s former space for this function. This area is where the staff keeps all the applications that come in. 

“This space will allow us to remain in compliance with the laws protecting the confidentiality of data,” Oliver said. “We can secure the records in a cabinet when they are not in use to ensure their security.” 

Southwestern has already set a record for applications this year, hitting 2,000 over the weekend. The previous record was 1,955. Between 2,400 and 2,500 applications are expected to come in before the Feb. 1 deadline for fall 2009 admission.  

The office also has an area where staff members can prepare mailings to prospective applicants. Several staff members also will get larger offices. “Some of our staff members were working in spaces that were literally closets,” Oliver said. 

The new building also will have computers for public use. These will enable family members to check their e-mail while students are interviewing, or learn more about Southwestern from its Web site. 

The parking lot near the new admission building was recently rebuilt, and will offer more parking spaces that are accessible for persons with disabilities. In all, Oliver said the new building will enable Southwestern to host prospective students and their families in a facility that better exemplifies the university.

“The admission office is where first impressions are made,” Oliver said. “We want to show prospective students and their families that this is a place where there are a lot of possibilities and opportunities.” 

A formal dedication of the building is scheduled for Feb. 21 during Family Days. Oliver said his staff plans to have an open house before that to showcase the new building to the campus community. 

Southwestern has applied for the building to become certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. The building was designed with the goal of Gold LEED certification, the second highest possible certification.

Features that make the building “green” include a bamboo floor in the lobby area, skylights in the center of the building, waterless urinals, solar-powered sink faucets and reflective roof shingles. At least 20 percent of the materials used in the building were extracted and manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. All paints, finishes, adhesives and sealants used on the interior of the building had low VOC content. The building also is surrounded by landscaping that uses native plants. 

Oliver said the “green” aspect to the new building should appeal to prospective students, who are very interested in issues such as sustainability and the environment. “It will reinforce that Southwestern is looking to the future and doing what we can to protect the environmental legacy we will hand down to future generations,” Oliver said. 

For long-time employees of the Admission Office, however, the move to the new facility is bittersweet. 

“I’m anxious for the new space, but I’ll miss my colleagues in the Cullen Building,” said Christine Bowman, who has worked in the same area of the Cullen Building since she graduated from Southwestern in 1993. She even worked there as a student. 

“The Cullen Building is so rich in history,” said Oliver, who also attended Southwestern as a student. “To not be in that building takes us out of our history. It is hard to walk away from that, but at least we’ll just be across the street.”

Southwestern plans to turn the area in the original Cullen Building formerly occupied by the Admission Office into a museum as part of a complete renovation of the historic building. Work on that project is expected to start after construction is completed on the new Prothro Center for Lifelong Learning.

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