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Lee Capristo
Director of Publications
Email: lwcapristo@smcm.edu
Anne Arundel 100

The Campus Tour Guide: Ambassadors with Clout

Written by Benjamin Toll '07, Assistant Admissions Director

Students gather at Waring commons for an evening of music under the stars.

Maybe a student is looking for a particular academic program when choosing a college, or to be a certain number of hours from home, or maybe a certain number of hours away from home. No matter the selection criteria, however, the whittling to a few select schools is a formidable task.

We've been trained since elementary school in the ways of the scientific method - to let rational thinking and objectivity drive our decision-making. If you were to go to your nearest mega-bookstore you would find this argument supported by an entire row devoted to the college selection process. Barnes and Noble would like you to believe that all your questions about the selection process can be answered by stepping inside the store. Is your dream school ranked as a first-tier national liberal arts college or perhaps it is a second-tier regional university? Are students happy there? Why? There's U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges, Peterson's Four Year Colleges, and The Fiske Guide to Colleges.

Yet, despite the great effort put forth by the marketing departments of all of these various publications, one individual stands above them in the search for truth in the college selection process, The Tour Guide.

Yes, while colleges love to brag about their outstanding faculty who conduct cutting-edge research and their visionary president who eats lunch with the students in the dining hall, in truth the individual who matters most to visiting families is probably wearing flip-flops, frayed jeans, and an intramurals T-shirt.

Every week at St. Mary's College, teens troop to St. Mary's City with one or two parents and a passel of younger brothers and sisters to be led around campus by student guides on one of at least eight scheduled tours departing from the Admissions Office. There also are bus trips to campus and monthly open houses where there will be up to 25 tours in a single day.

Each of these tours is led by a St. Mary's student who, over the course of an hour and a half, describes not only the physical layout of the campus, but the heart and soul of the campus community. No two tours will be the same, nor should they be. While there is some common information about the campus that each tour guide will share, a strong ambassador will attempt to understand the needs and interests of the touring families. They make St. Mary's genuine and real by sharing their own first-hand experiences.

So why not take a tour with our tour guides as they share some of their experiences at St. Mary's: 

Why are you a tour guide?  The main reason I was early decision at St. Mary's was MY tour guide. He made me realize that this school was ideal for me. ~ Rachel Kaelber '12, student-designed major

We help them fi nd a home rather than just a school. For example, you can read all the statistics you want about SMCM on the Internet, but you'll never know if it's the right school until a student who goes here tells you how it really is. ~ Elizabeth Benge '11, political science major

Tour guides have to encompass everything great about St. Mary's in an hour and a half. Having good statistics about the school is good, but tour guides tell you what pamphlets can't.  ~ Lauren Grey '11, English major

What is your favorite part of campus to show on the tour?   I love the Garden of Remembrance. I find it to be the most beautiful part of campus with the great view of the water and benches to sit and admire the St. Mary's River.  ~ Rachel Kaelber '12, student-designed major

I love showing the River Center. It's great to be able to show off our great view of the river.  ~ Katherine Brown '13, English major

Garden of Remembrance terrace overlooking the water. I always tell the students and parents that I feel like I go to school at a resort, and this view is why. ~ Julie Faggio '10, psychology major

What is your favorite St. Mary's tradition?  My favorite St. Mary's tradition is Hallowgreens. I like how everyone is invited to the Greens for festivities and everyone always has great costume ideas. This year, a group of my friends were the Seven Wonders of St. Mary's. I was the Garden of Remembrance and my other friends were the Naked Man Statue, Hidden Grave, Church Point, the Bell Tower, St. John's Pond, and the Shoe Tree! ~ Alexa Milroy '12, art history and political science major

I love going down to Church Point and hanging out with friends, enjoying the weather and the fire, listening to music and watching the stars. ~ Julia Rocha '11, English major

Pondings, (being dunked into St. John's for celebration) when it's not me being the one ponded! ~ Holly Fabbri '12, history major

My favorite St. Mary's tradition is midnight breakfast during finals. It is a great way to take a study break and hang out with friends while getting a delicious meal.
~ Ashley Holmes '11, psychology major

My favorite St. Mary's tradition is the cardboard boat race on Family Weekend. It encompasses the St. Mary's community by showing the camaraderie of the school and the students. It also shows how St. Mary's revolves around the river. Plus, it's just fun to watch! Next year I am definitely entering! ~ Erika Schmitt '12, biology major

What is the most bizarre question you have ever received on a tour?   My most bizarre question was "do people on this campus date?" I didn't even know how to begin answering that one.   ~ Elizabeth Benge '11, political science major

"Is the St. Mary's housekeeping staff like a hotel staff that comes into each dorm room to clean them?" ~ Holly Fabbri '12, history major

"Can we take this tour without actually going outside?" (It was pouring rain)    ~Laura Hausheer '13, art and English major

Once when showing the rooms in PG a student asked how often people have to sleep in the hallway because they can't remember the combination to their door lock.
~ Lauren Grey '11, English major

One family wondered why so many students weren't wearing shoes on a nice sunny day.  ~ Thaise Brower '12, math major

What's your most embarrassing tour moment?  When I was walking behind Queen Anne and explaining the Co-Op, I saw my friend through the window. I waved, told my tour that I knew him, and then he mooned us. It was pretty embarrassing, especially when the students asked if we were dating.   ~ Alexa Milroy '12, art history and political science major

I've had several issues with walking into walls or other large, immovable objects.  ~ Madeline Montgomery '12, anthropology and biology major

I was asked if my shoes were in the shoe tree and I couldn't help but laugh.  ~ Brad Dodson '10, biology major

Tripping and falling on the hill from the Garden of Remembrance to the River Center and having all the parents on the tour rushing over to help me. ~ Julie Faggio '10, psychology major

How would you describe the faculty?  The faculty is the reason I am here!  My professors are really very helpful and friendly. I am never afraid to ask questions in class or intimidated to attend office hours. My art professors in particular are just extraordinarily helpful, encouraging me to visit D.C. museums and drawing that material into class discussions.   ~ Laura Hausheer '13, artand English major

The professors are so friendly and always willing to help or answer questions. You often see them interacting with students at different events around campus or even eating together in the Great Room.   ~ Erika Schmitt '12, biology major