Wikipedia says, “Wayfinding refers to the ways in which people and animals orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place.” The students in this photo are having a great time finding their way down the hill by the Chapel, one of Colby’s traditional sledding venues. At the end of this post, you’ll see some other students preparing for warmer times when they will be finding their way down white water rapids in little plastic boats. Such a variety of wayfinding and of things to learn at Colby College!
Over here in Lunder House, we’re still finding our way through all those applications. But there has been a shift in the atmosphere. It started last week during the annual February school break for many students in Maine and Massachusetts. This week, schools in Vermont and New Hampshire are on vacation. And so the focus and stillness of our reading have been interrupted with crowds of visiting students and their families. Some are applicants who are checking Colby out in winter months; one dad from Southern California told me that after his son decided to apply to Colby, he had to come to campus in February to see for himself what a Maine winter is all about. The majority of our visitors have been current juniors who are just starting the college process in earnest. It’s interesting to see both ends of the spectrum thrown together.
The hard part is switching gears. After two months of the solitary reading process, I found myself conducting an information session last Monday for a room full of 30 or so lively and expectant visitors. This is business-as-usual in late summer and on busy fall holiday weekends like Columbus Day, but I know I had a bit of the deer-in-the-headlights look during my session – I was completely out of practice. So there was a bit of wayfinding on my part as I tried to help our visitors get a sense about Colby.
Actually we feel fortunate that we’ve had so many visitors. The opening of the Diamond building on our side of Mayflower Hill Drive has complicated the task of finding Lunder House. For over a decade, ours was the only structure on the downhill side of the Drive, with a parking lot conveniently located directly in front of the building. With the advent of Colby Green, however, we’ve welcomed new neighbors and lots of changes to the landscape, some of which definitely complicate finding one’s way to Lunder. Diamond is so large that it completely obstructs Lunder for those visitors approaching from one end of Mayflower Hill; people can’t always figure out where they’re heading until after they’ve missed the entrance to the parking lot, which is now located behind our building. This is another point of confusion since it seems a bit counterintuitive not to enter by the door closest to the parking, but visitors who do so, rather than walking around on the path to the front door, get their first view of Lunder via the mail room.
The wayfinding challenges, we hope, will lessen with eventual changes to various signs: the ones identifying Lunder, where to park, and how to get into our building. Meanwhile, we’ll finish up reading applications as the number of visitors settles down a bit in March before the big rush in April. Good luck with your own wayfinding challenges!