As a young child through my high school years, I was a ballet dancer. For years, I would spend three to four days a week inside a ballet studio. In ballet, every class starts the same routine. I can still remember most of them. There is a smell to a ballet studio: from the wooden floors, to the dressing room, to the chalk box where you dip your ballet slippers into to keep from slipping. There is the touch of the ballet barre, smooth and worn from the years of use. There is the music coming from the elderly woman (who appeared elderly to me at the time, but probably was not so old) at the piano playing the same melodies over and over, and there was an undercurrent feeling of determination, discipline, and love of an art.
I can conjure up the smell, the sounds, the touch, and the feelings on a moment’s notice and put myself back into reliving the experience and a smile always comes to my face. What a memorable experience it was.
A student at your university may spend up to 6 years of their life with you. The experience we want them to remember is one that hopefully will bring a smile to their faces years after they graduate. So, what does it take to create a memorable student experience? What do your students hear, smell, see, and touch? Take a walk through your campus, looking through the lens of a student, and rate it. Start by asking yourself these questions on your audit:
1. Does the campus feel inviting and welcoming when I drive into its entry points? What images will I conjure up years from now as focal points? Is it a statue, a fountain, a reflecting pond, a beautiful tree or tree scape?
2. What do I hear when I walk into the student union, a building atrium, a classroom, a food spot? Is their engaged talking, enthusiastic tones, some laughter, or perhaps music?
3. Do you smell anything in particular? It could be the smell of springtime in the leaves and flowers as you walk across the campus, it could be the smell of bacon in the dining area for those students with early classes, it could be the smell of a classroom lab that engages the senses with a feeling of learning.
The four senses are very powerful in creating memorable experiences. The more you can plan and orchestrate these senses to produce a robust aura will reinforce the power of the memory of your university to be recalled