Passion, not money, now drives campus tour guides

Westminster junior Emily Moyer leads a campus tour of prospective students to see student housing options. Student volunteers in Westminster’s Admissions Griffin Ambassadors program lead campus tours, mingle at events, host luncheons and overnight guests and participate in monthly club meetings. Photo by Bri Miller.

Westminster junior Emily Moyer leads a campus tour of prospective students to see student housing options. Student volunteers in Westminster’s Admissions Griffin Ambassadors program lead campus tours, mingle at events, host luncheons and overnight guests and participate in monthly club meetings. Photo by Bri Miller.

Westminster College’s Admissions Griffin Ambassadors club now looks for student campus tour guides who have a passion for the work rather than for those wanting a paycheck.

The Admissions Griffin Ambassadors (AGA) program, formerly a paid position, has now taken shape as a volunteer-based club. Student volunteers lead campus tours, mingle at events, host luncheons and overnight guests and participate in monthly club meetings. After select admission interns attended a conference about tour guiding and tour guiding programs throughout the country, the members of AGA said they decided to make the change from paid tour guides to volunteers.

“We had been struggling with some issues in our own tour guiding paid position, such as retention, scheduling and training,” said admissions intern Elaine Sheehan. “We went to the conference to try to solve some of those issues, and we came away realizing that making the tour guiding aspect of admissions volunteer would be a lot more beneficial for the program.”

The idea for the change started in January, came to life in April and fully got off its feet this fall semester.

“What we were lacking with the paid position was passion,” Sheehan said. “We had a couple students that were really passionate and gave tours because they loved it, but then we had people giving tours just to make money as a campus job. Our main motivation for moving it over was that we want passion to drive students, not money.”

The Admissions Griffin Ambassadors are students who want to represent Westminster to prospective students, Sheehan said.

“For us, the most important part of a student’s decision to come to Westminster is helping them decide if it is the right fit,” Sheehan said. “We find that current students’ stories are the best way to figure out whether or not someone fits at this school. The club essentially is our way of collecting those students’ stories and also just giving Westminster students a reason to tell their story.”

The Admissions Griffin Ambassadors club is open to all students on campus, and there are no special requirements needed to join, Sheehan said. The club members provide all the information and training necessary for students to volunteer.

“My favorite part of giving tours will be talking with people,” said Lacey Kisko, a first-year who’s training to become a tour guide. “I really enjoy getting to know people and what they are interested in. I’m going to share my story and the process I went through because I think that is more persuasive than bragging about all the pros of this school.”

Originally there were 12 tour guides giving campus tours at Westminster; there are now 15 within the new program, Sheehan said.

“When I first came to school, I took a tour and it gave me a really good first impression,” said Mia Moore, a first year who’s training to become a tour guide. “I really wanted to be that good first impression for someone else.”

Training to become a tour guide requires students to shadow mock tours with a certified tour guide, as well as attending tours with prospective students.

“I didn’t know the position was paid before, and I wouldn’t expect it to be paid,” Moore said. “I’m not giving tours for money; I’m doing it because I like to do it.” 

According to Sheehan, students appreciate their time at Westminster more once they have the opportunity to share with other people.

“There are all these talks of diversity, how can we open up the school to more people and how can we sell ourselves in a way that is genuine and honest,” Sheehan said. “We want student voices to be the center of our admissions process, and with our club we can have an unlimited amount of student voices.”