The new system will include new vehicle and pedestrian signage, renaming parts of some roads, assigning every building on campus an individual address and map kiosks.
David Hale, the executive vice president and chief operating officer at UR, explained the changes in an email sent to all university students and staff members in April.
“It is more important than ever that we continue to identify ways to make our campus more welcoming and easier to navigate for the many guests who visit,” Hale stated in the email.
The wayfinding system is the result of a project that began in 2016 when the university hired Corbin Design to help with exterior campus signage, said Andrew McBride, associate vice president for facilities and the university architect. McBride said that over the past two years, Corbin Design had worked closely with campus groups and had led town hall meetings in preparation for its recommendations.
According to the UR website, the new wayfinding system will be implemented over the summer and will tackle a variety of problems.
First, existing campus signage will be replaced with blue and red vehicular, pedestrian and building signs. Cynthia Price, UR’s director of media and public relations, said the communications team had been involved throughout the process and had approved all the final concepts.
Map kiosks will also be installed throughout campus to help visitors and students navigate the university.
“Since the campus continues to change as buildings are built, the kiosk will be outfitted with a panel to insert revisions to the map,” McBride said.
And although names will remain the same, all buildings will be renumbered and receive individual addresses to make them easier to reach. All student mail sent to 28 Westhampton Way will still reach the appropriate addressee as long as the department or student is identified, McBride said.
Finally, the email sent to students and staff members stated the points at which some streets begin and end would change to address the confusion often associated with roads that change names multiple times.
UR’s campus draws in many visitors every year. The Princeton Review ranked UR as the sixth most beautiful campus nationwide in 2017. But, beauty aside, many students and visitors find that the UR campus is difficult to navigate.
“My family and I walked around for 20 minutes trying to find the class I was supposed to sit in on until we finally gave up and had to ask for directions from a student who was running across campus,” one visitor said. “The campus is beautiful, but we’ve gotten lost a lot today. I’m sure it gets easier the longer you’re here.”
But India Henderson, freshman, said giving directions was almost as difficult as navigating the campus.
“When I’m trying to guide people who aren’t from here, it’s really difficult,” Henderson said. “All the buildings look exactly the same and some have almost the exact same names. So many people get confused with the multiple ‘Robins’ and ‘Queally’ buildings.”
Students are not the only ones who have problems finding their way around campus. Alex DeAbreu, senior, said he always had problems directing Ubers.
"Almost every time I order an Uber to campus, I know that I will have to eventually call them to direct them to which apartment I'm at,” DeAbreu said. “I try to add that time into my schedule when I'm going off campus because it has become so consistent.”
Marketing professor Bill Bergman thinks the new system is marvelous, he said.
“I think it will help a lot of people, especially those coming to visit," Bergman said. "However, I don’t know what this will cost. I think I’d rather see these dollars go into addressing bigger issues than helping people with directions."
When asked, university officials said they did not yet have a complete estimate of the project’s total cost.
“The signs are one of the last components of a multi-million dollar and multi-year road redevelopment project,” Price said.
For DeAbreu, the wayfinding system seems to be a logical improvement, he said.
“I think that this is going to be really helpful, especially for visitors to the campus,” DeAbreu said. “I know the Office of Admission has recently created a virtual tour to make it easier for families to do self-guided tours because it gets difficult when all of our buildings look very similar and the roads don't really make sense.”
Meanwhile, for Henderson, the changes are also met with some nostalgia.
Contact contributor Fatima DelBarco at firstname.lastname@example.org.