Anyone who has ever taken a guided tour here (or at any college in the U.S.) has experienced the classic backward-walking tour guide. But the days of guides bumping into trees and street signs may be at an end. The University recently revamped its campus tour, rethinking everything from tour route and time length to, yes, even the direction the tour guides walk. The new route went into operation on Monday.
Andrew Walker ’09, tour guide coordinator for special tours as well as a regular tour guide, explained that tour guides will no longer walk backwards and talk at the groups. Instead, guides will walk alongside the groups in order to talk with them. To facilitate this, four tour guides will split groups (which are usually around forty or fifty people) into smaller groups of around ten.
“It’s a lot more personal,” Walker said. “Tour guides get to know the people on the tour.”
The tour route has also been changed.
The old route began at Admissions, moved through the Center for the Arts (CFA), down College Row and stopped at the then-operational Davenport Campus Center. The groups then proceeded through Olin Library and Exley Science Center, before walking up to Fauver to look at a dorm room. The tour would end with the group walking across Foss Hill back to Admissions
In contrast, the new route, which still starts at Admissions, head first to the Center for Film Studies. From there, the groups will head down High Street, stopping outside the Davison Health Center. The groups will then head north, making stops at North College, Olin Library, Exley Science Center, and Freeman Athletic Center.
After Freeman, the tours will walk to either Fauver Residence Hall or Clark Hall, where student volunteers will provide a personal tour of their rooms. Unlike previous years, where guides would have to find willing volunteers on the spot to show their rooms, tour guides will now call ahead to designated student volunteers, making sure they’re available to show their room. The groups will then pass by Foss Hill, until finally ending at the Usdan University Center.
The informational approach of the tours has changed as well. Rather than presenting visitors with constant streams of information regarding their immediate surroundings, tour guides will now be given nine talking points to discuss at specific places throughout the tour. Between these points, tour guides will encourage visitors to engage in personal interactions and ask questions.
“It’s more of a conversation,” Walker explained.
As a result of the changes, tours are now 20 minutes longer. Tours will now last an estimated 70 minutes. The old tours ran around 50 minutes. For this reason, Admissions has made the decision to start paying tour guides eight dollars an hour, unlike previous years when the job was strictly volunteer. 80 applicants vied for a tour guide position this year, from which 30 were chosen.
Tara Lindros, assistant dean of Admissions, explained that the decision to turn the tour guide position into a paying job was based on a wish to broaden the spectrum of people giving tours.
“We wanted kids from all over campus who were able to do this as a job, particularly students doing work-study,” Lindros said.
Lindros expressed satisfaction with the new tour changes.
“This is the first year of the new program, and I think we did fairly well,” Lindros said.