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Friday, August 21, 2009

Walking backwards, part 2

Photo courtesy of vid.rm

My last post, asking your opinions about the tour guide practice of walking backward, was inspired by a New York Times article and blog post, which pointed at that practice, and others, as evidence of "staid" college tours. Apparently, many schools are hiring consultants to review and tweak their campus tours and these consultants have labeled many traditional tour guide practices as ineffective and old fashioned.

We don't have any money to hire a consulting company. I'm not sure we would hire one if we had the money. You see, we have some really great consultants right in house. We have about 120 students, aged 17-22, who run our tour guide group. They decide the content and routes of our tours. The way the group operates is an example of student self-governance here. Perhaps the students who just went through the college search, the ones who visited a dozen or so peer institutions during their college search, the ones who are just a couple years older than the prospective students, have a good idea of what the students on tour want to hear.

The University Guide Service is an independent student organization. While we have a liaison (a former tour guide herself) who lets them know about high traffic days or special groups that might need a tour outside of the schedule, but we don't tell the University Guide Service what to do. The UGS selects and trains new members each year. Tours aren't scripted, but the group makes a list of topics that need to be covered at some point on the tours and new guides shadow experienced guides to see how those topics can be organized on the various tour routes. They combine those topics with their own anecdotes to give visitors a mix of the official and the personal.

They do this beautifully.

Time and again, we're told our guides are wonderful. People are often surprised that the Office of Admission is not involved in picking the guides or managing the group.