Samford University’s Ingalls Hall: The Art of First Impressions

Posted on Sep 27, 2021 10:22:40 AM

With its majestic live oak trees, rolling hills, and ageless architecture, the campus of Samford University resembles a movie set of the perfect college campus. In spite of Samford’s “old school” feel, they are the first to admit that first impressions go a long way with applicants. So they are among the many colleges and universities that have begun to incorporate hi-tech solutions as part of their admissions experience.

When Samford decided to reinvent their Student Visitor Center in Ingalls Hall they put the contract out to bid in 2018 and MediaMerge became the clear frontrunner, thanks to their stellar reputation with AVL integration projects and their willingness to go the extra mile in discovering what a client truly needs from their systems.

“We decided on MediaMerge because of how involved they wanted us to be in the process,” says Brian Kennedy, Associate Director of Admission Communication of Samford’s Office of Admission. “It started as ‘what do you want?’ but quickly moved to ‘what are you trying to accomplish?’ Sitting down with professionals as dedicated to the craft as MediaMerge really opened our eyes to what we needed the most.”

First Impressions

The first thing visitors see when they enter Ingalls Hall is the visitor information center, a large, round desk run by student volunteers who warmly welcome prospective students to the campus. The walls to the left and right of the desk are dominated by four integrated touch screens that feature a constant flow of content related to activities on campus as well as tour times, campus events, a social media feed, and up-to-the-minute weather reports. The screen can also be customized to feature a welcome message to any prospective students who may be visiting that day.

“Video systems like these help us engage with families before tours even begin,” Brian says. “There’s even a widget that lets us display personal greetings to our visitors.”

More than a few families have taken selfies next to those displays.

As the project developed, MediaMerge worked with Hoar Construction preparing Ingalls to make the space as AVL-friendly as possible. For example, the walls supporting the four-screen displays were deliberately inset at MediaMerge’s request to create a smooth, integrated video wall.

Conference Rooms that Facilitate Communication

College buildings can't just be for show; they need to be functional as well. Admissions staff needed somewhere to plan, prep, and discuss the future of student admissions, and MediaMerge fulfilled that need.

The Ingalls conference rooms, perfect for meetings between both staff and students, have large displays integrated into the same system as those found in the Admissions entrance. They use this feature to pipe music through the speakers mounted in the ceiling of the hallways. This has a subtle way of relaxing the mood and ensuring there’s never any awkward “dead air” as visitors pass from room to room on their tour.

MediaMerge also simplified the frustrating task of virtual meetings. By installing a camera system into the larger meeting room in Ingalls Hall, meeting participants can be seen on one screen by those connecting from different locations.

“Recruitment efforts have put our staff in a multitude of locations,” Brian points out. “It’s very easy to feel disconnected from the main campus. The system MediaMerge installed for us helps us come together in a way that’s closer to a real meeting than we ever thought possible for virtual technology.”

The Big Room

The showstopper of MediaMerge’s integration is the main presentation room. Here, administrators gather with large groups of prospective students and their families to demonstrate what the Samford experience is all about.

Based on previous experience with projection systems, Samford wanted to forgo the typical pulldown projector system. Instead, MediaMerge designed a video wall with nine 55”, high-definition, LED screens integrated into the architecture.

Like all the other systems MediaMerge integrated into Ingalls, the AVL systems are seamlessly controlled through a simple tablet interface. Any presenter can automatically alter the lighting, video content, and audio sources to best suit the presenter’s situation.

The two screens on the back wall mirror the content on the front display, so presenters can face their audience while they speak. Plus, the small mezzanine in the back is used as a more intimate presentation area for smaller groups.

But there’s always something more when it comes to MediaMerge. The back wall is a fully integrated wall of speakers, capable of surrounding the audience in sound.

“We wanted to find different ways of engaging with big groups of prospective students. This presentation room didn’t have any means to do that initially, no better than any other room at least. But MediaMerge designed our entire AVL system to put forth the vision that we wanted to show off. People remember what they see in this room because of the work MediaMerge put into it.”

There’s no doubt that Samford University gives back to its students with its beauty, community, and quality.

Thanks to MediaMerge, all this is crystal clear the moment a student and their parents walk under those giant Live Oaks and into Ingalls Hall for that first tour. They are met with a presentation that is equal to the experience of the University.


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