Douglas A. Girod, Chancellor - University of Kansas
Heath Peterson, President - KU Alumni Association
Jason Booker, Deputy AD for External Affairs and Revenue Generation - Kansas Athletics
Drew Berst, Executive Director - Dimensional Innovations
What was the initial vision for the Jayhawk Welcome Center, and why was student recruitment ultimately at the forefront of this facility?
DG: Early on in talking with Heath Peterson and the Alumni Association, the board came forward with a creative idea; they were contemplating remodeling their facilities, but they pivoted and said, how can we help the university? What can the Alumni Association do to help the university be successful well into the future? And as we started those conversations and discussed the challenges, [including the topic of] enrollment and recruitment efforts to the importance of the campus visit, this vision hatched of being able to create the launch spot for campus visits and doing it in a way that nobody else had ever done it before.
Alignment is a buzzy concept in college athletics; how did the collaboration between various stakeholder groups culminate in creating the Jayhawk Welcome Center?
HP: Alignment begins with authentic relationships, strong communication and a commitment to thinking more broadly. The KU Alumni Association had needs to expand our physical space to accommodate an alumni base that has grown by 40% since we opened our doors in 1983. Concurrently, the university was evaluating how it could modernize its visitor center to reshape the first impression of KU. We crafted a vision around connecting the future, present and past to help us recruit the next generation of Jayhawks. The team at DI was instrumental in guiding key stakeholders through an inclusive exercise to frame the storytelling experience.
DB: This is a project led by the KU Alumni Association (that also happens to be an independent association) with the full support of the Chancellor, Administration, Endowment, and the Athletic Department. At many universities, these groups don’t always work together. But at KU, they all saw the bigger picture and shared a desire to showcase the university in a forward-thinking way.
Why was it important for Athletics to be involved in developing the Jayhawk Welcome Center?
JB: We have maintained a great partnership with the KU Alumni Association. It was essential to showcase the connectivity across campus and how the association and welcome center is an asset for athletics and our entire campus community. Members of Rock Chalk Video, including Mike Lickert; our creative services team led by Douglas Shepherd; and Booth Family Hall of Athletics Curator Abbi Craig, were all a part of helping tell the athletics story in the new welcome center space. This includes digital installations to highlight the gameday atmosphere at football and basketball games, as well as outfitting and shining a light on the All-American Room, showcasing individual accomplishments in the space.
HP: The student-athlete recruitment experience, a lot of times, it’s focused on a particular sport. It may not provide as broad a view of the institution as a whole. The ability for a recruit to get a sense of the community they're joining here at KU and provide a curated experience that says, hey, this is amazing space outside of your sport… That's a tremendous advantage for our athletics department.
What were some key considerations for the team as you were developing the experience journey?
HP: If you think about showcasing what it means to be a Jayhawk, that could mean something totally different, depending on your generation and the stage of life you’re in. We had a fruitful exercise with campus leaders and the team at DI. We spent almost an entire day talking about that very question: What does it mean to be a Jayhawk? And how do we tell this story effectively? As you enter the space, we wanted there to be this wow factor that was highly personalized by leveraging technology.
How can on-campus spaces such as the Jayhawk Welcome Center differentiate KU Athletics in terms of athlete recruitment, current student-athlete experience and alumni/community engagement?
JB: It is critical to showcase the overall student-athlete experience during their time at KU and key in on the support system and Jayhawk network for post-graduation opportunities. To show real stories of the impact our alumni are making in business and respective communities helps tell a bigger story of what it means to be a Jayhawk and why KU may provide a different connectivity experience than other universities.