“Treat every tour like it’s your first tour.”
This is the advice given by Hattie Briggs, assistant director of undergraduate admissions and Fairfield alum, to current student tour ambassadors at Fairfield University.
Having served as a tour ambassador herself before graduating from Fairfield in 2016, Briggs empathizes with Fairfield students. She understands the amount of energy and stamina that is needed to conduct campus tours.
Due to this, as part of her work she makes a point to frequently remind student tour ambassadors that they are likely leading visiting families who have yet to ever experience the University before. This she hopes will encourage them to put their best foot forward at each and every tour.
“I really encourage them to remember that even though it may be your 1000th tour, for that family that came, it’s their first tour and their first time seeing Fairfield,” she says.
“Their visit could be the make or break as to whether they spend the next four years here, so treat every experience like it’s the very first one and bring that same energy and that same passion.”
Each year, the Office of Undergraduate Admission welcomes prospective students to schedule a campus visit for any day of the week. On each campus visit, student tour guides hired by the University are paired with prospective students and guests to venture around campus.
Each tour ambassador takes prospective students to eight different stops: the Quad, the Stag statue, Egan Chapel of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, DiMenna–Nyselius Library, Bannow Science Center, Barone Campus Center, Daniel Grace Tully Dining Commons and the Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Recreation Complex.
Briggs shares that in recent years, the Office of Undergraduate Admission has expanded its outlook on hiring student tour ambassadors. Rather than merely hiring student applicants who are outgoing and extroverted, she acknowledges a heightened focus on finding students with a passion toward their own Fairfield experience thus far.
“Maybe it’s not so in your face,” she says.
“The most important thing is to be well spoken and to be able to highlight different areas of your Fairfield experience that prospective students [and] visiting families are going to be able to connect with because that’s what giving tours is all about.”
Many of Fairfield’s current student tour ambassadors share a similar passion for meeting with visiting students and look forward to showing off their school pride.
Sophomore James Vinluan wanted to be a tour guide even before coming to Fairfield. He admired the amount of knowledge acquired through the position, as well as the impact it has on others. His favorite part of touring with prospective students is watching their excitement as they begin to visualize Fairfield as home.
“….When [visiting students] begin to say, ‘Oh my God, this is my school,’ I actually was a part of that magic,” he says.
Sophomore Matthew Adamski similarly applied for his position with the hopes of impacting future generations of Stags. He makes note that positive change at Fairfield begins with the new students they are bringing in, who will continue the University’s growth.
“I want to continue to see the curriculum improve and that starts with the people we bring in,” he says.
“Find ambitious people who are ready to work…and add to the community experience,” he advises, “which is essential to being a Stag.”
Sophomore Brenna Kennedy applied to be a tour guide as a nursing major with a minor in psychology. With a very busy and tight schedule of classes, she leaped at the opportunity to pursue employment that worked with her availability and met her needs as an extrovert.
One of her favorite memories from the experience so far pertains to calming the anxieties of two visiting students and their families.
“Being able to tell them how you make friends on campus and easing a lot of their nerves, that was something I definitely enjoyed a lot,” says Kennedy.
Many student tour guides at Fairfield seem to hold fond memories from their tours.
Vinluan shares that on one of his tours as he was giving his anecdote about the Fairfield tradition of “riding the Stag,” a visiting mom exclaimed, “Well, let’s ride it right now!”
At first, unaware of whether it was a joke or if this mother was truly about to make her way up the Stag, he laughed. Although no one ended up riding the Stag that day, Vinluan still smiles at the thought.
Experiences like these are what Vinluan believes helps to create such a close community among all the student tour ambassadors.
“It’s a really fun atmosphere because everybody’s so excited that they get to share their experiences…,” he says, “we’re all kind of like a family.”
Adamski shares that one of his greatest memories comes from a conversation he had with a visiting mother who was a Fairfield alum and accompanied him on his tour. Having graduated in the 80s, she told him stories of the deli that used to be in Gonzaga Hall, the $1.50 “cheapy” sandwich sold and compared the student life scene on campus from then to now.
Besides sharing experiences, student tour guides also compare frequently asked questions they receive from prospective students and their families. Between Adamski, Vinluan and Kennedy, the three most frequently asked questions ranged from those related to the dormitories on campus, food options at the Tully and air conditioning in the residence halls.
A lot of feedback from the prospective students and their families is shared with Briggs following the student-led tours. Serving as a resource herself, she likes to ask families if they have any further questions. Frequently, however, there are no questions asked but rather positive commentary given on the student tour ambassadors.
“I make sure to pass along all that positive reinforcement when…you literally change someone’s life,” Briggs says.
The majority of feedback from visiting students and their families is positive, according to Briggs.
“Every glimpse of seeing how they [student tour ambassadors] really can affect people’s lives and affect people’s futures is just so meaningful,” Briggs stated. “I’m getting goosebumps a little bit just talking about it because it’s not just a job, you really are changing people’s lives.”
(Editor’s note: Managing Editor Tommy Coppola is a tour ambassador for the University and thus did not read, edit or have any part of this article before publication.)