BY MARY BURGER – STAFF WRITER
Every day you can see them, sometimes even battling the elements of ice, rain, and snow. They are impossible to miss with large groups of students and parents tagging along, and if you are close enough, you can hear their conversations full of personal anecdotes and Centre’s history. They are the tour guides, the Centre Ambassadors.
“We have about thirty trained ambassadors,” Welcome Center Coordinator Alice Kaplan said. “They don’t all lead tours on a regular basis. We have more in the process of training.”
In order to become a part of Centre Ambassadors, students first fill out a detailed application. From here, Kaplan conducts group interviews with all of the applications, which allows her to get an idea of everyone’s personalities.
“Once I feel like someone would make a good ambassador, I set them up to shadow a minimum of three tours,” Kaplan said.
By shadowing three different tours, a prospective guide can learn how to cater a tour to different groups. The prospective guide also then observes different conversational approaches that the permanent ambassadors use. The final step in the process allows the prospective tour guide to lead a tour with a veteran Ambassador following along. The veteran can provide feedback and also help out if necessary along the route.
While students can begin leading tours at any point during their college career, many begin in their early days at Centre and stick with it for the whole four years.
“I really like how it reminds me how fantastic Centre is and how cool all the people here are,” junior and two-year Centre Ambassador Emma Comery said. “Some days, when I’m drowning in coursework, meetings, and emails, Centre is the actual worst. But every Monday I give a tour and I talk about my [study] abroad experience and my on-campus jobs and all my favorite professors and I realize again how much I love this place and how it’s the actual best.”
The Ambassadors follow an established route, but the exact approach to the conversations can vary person-to-person. While one person may talk about Flex Dollars and the different meal plan options when standing by Sandella’s, others may focus on that conversation in the Campus Center. One conversation topic that especially depends on the student leading the tour is that of The Flame.
Does one discuss this tradition that involves nudity while surrounded by parents who may not want to picture their child partaking in that particular activity?
“Yes, I talk about the Flame,” sophomore Valentine Banor said. “It’s a funny thing to point out on a tour that gets people to laugh. Then again, it can also be awkward.”
Comrey, however, uses discretion.
“I try to read my audience,” she said. “If it seems like a fun-loving group, I tell them everything. How the Flame was donated by the father of an alum to represent the light of learning that Centre gave his daughter, how it’s now a campus tradition to run from one’s dorm, around the Flame, and back sans-clothing, and how we have incredibly brave campus security who will tackle you even when you’re naked. In general, people love hearing about this piece of Centre culture.”
The most-enjoyable aspect of being a Centre Ambassador is the interactions with prospective students. Oftentimes, especially with smaller groups, conversations flow effortlessly. This can lead to a prospective student’s increased comfort levels in asking different, and sometimes difficult, questions.
“The best question I received was, ‘How do Centre students react about people who think very different when it comes to race, gender, and sexuality?,’” Banor said.
Depending on the size of the group, questions may range from all sorts of topics.
“The best question is also the worst question, and I get it all the time, which is, ‘Have you ever run The Flame?’ For some reason it’s always a dad who asks this and I secretly hate him for the rest of the tour. But a fellow Ambassador gave me advice on how to answer this question, so now I always smile and say, ‘I will neither confirm nor deny,’” Comery said. “There’s really no downside to being an Ambassador. It’s a great public-speaking experience, a great networking opportunity, and it’s the best feeling ever when you see a first-year student who you once had on your tour.”
If you are interested in joining this group of students as an ambassador, lunch host, or overnight host, contact Alice Kaplan in Old Centre.