“I heard it cost four million dollars and there was an entire think tank!”
“It feels like we’re in a computer game.”
“I didn’t know there was a print shop until this year, and I’m a senior!”
This was all overheard during the 1:15 p.m. dining-hall lunch rush on Tuesday, Sept. 5. The new, large blue and red signs on campus have been a topic of discussion since the moment students returned for this semester.
University of Richmond’s new wayfinding initiative has been in the works as part of the university’s larger Capital Plan for projects and expenditures over the course of multiple years, Cynthia Price, UR’s director of media and public relations, said.
“We awarded the contract for the project about two years ago,” Price said. “The work started right after commencement last spring.”
The new signs and mapping were intended to be finished largely over the summer, though university officials expected some final work -- a few last signs and lamp posts to be painted -- to carry over into the fall, Price said. The extent of the changes on campus have been the presence of the large blue-and-red signs, map kiosks throughout campus and new addresses for each building on campus.
Students returning to campus have had much to say about the changes.
“I think [the signs] are ugly,” sophomore Keeley Harris said. “They’re so big and bulky, and I understand they want to be obvious, but they’re obtrusive.”
Others said they thought the signs served their purpose well. First-year student Jisu Song said that when she was visiting campus last year, she wasn't able to find a way to exit the campus when she was driving.
“I couldn’t even find the exit to River Road,” Song said. “I had to ask someone.”
Now, in her first few weeks as a student, she said she had felt confident driving around campus with the help of the signs.
Another student said she thought the signs were slightly over the top.
“It’s kind of irrelevant to have the ‘two-minute walk’ information on the signs when I can already see the building I’m walking to,” junior Julia Siewert said.
Others expressed nostalgia about some of the address changes, especially students living in the University Forest Apartments. The previous apartment numbers held a certain degree of tradition to some groups of students. Apartment 101, now 170B, had been occupied for consecutive years by groups of girls who had known each other — as if it had been passed down.
“We had been calling it ‘one-oh-fun’ for so many years,” senior Rebecca Pasch said. “It’s kind of sad to lose that.”
Students have even purchased building numbers from Home Depot and nailed them to their apartments to show the original apartment numbers.
The wayfinding initiative’s main purpose is to make getting around campus easier and more streamlined, and one part of the initiative that is still in progress will make navigating even more seamless, Price said.
UR officials are working with the City of Richmond and Henrico County to get the new addresses for each building programmed into Google Maps, Price said. Previously, there had been one general address of 28 Westhampton Way for the entire school. Now, each building has its own address that will be searchable through Google Maps.
For people who don’t spend a lot of time on campus, these changes have been especially helpful. Dianne St. John in One Card services said the new signage had been useful for School of Professional and Continuing Studies and Osher Lifelong Learning students.
Osher is a lifelong learning program that allows people over the age of 50 to audit and participate in classes and lectures at UR.
“They’re not as familiar with campus because they’re not here as much,” St. John said.
An Osher participant on a campus tour last Wednesday expressed enthusiasm about the new signs.
“Yesterday was my first time on campus,” she said. “I followed the signs and got right to where I needed to go. It’ll be great for newcomers.”
The Osher tour guide, William Ervine, seemed less fond of the signs.
“They’re like mushrooms!" Ervine said. "They just popped up and they’re a little big. But I do think they’ll be very helpful in the long run."
UR’s reputation continues to grow and reach more people, attracting more and more visitors to campus for tours and lectures, Price said.
“The wayfinding system has made campus much easier to navigate and thereby much more welcoming,” Price said.
Contact features writer Lucy Nalen at firstname.lastname@example.org.