In the spring of 2013, Emily Gaudet ‘18 knew Fairfield was the right choice for her after touring the school with her family.
“I went on two tours at Fairfield University, and both my tour guides seemed so happy to be here and excited to share their experiences with my group and me, which made me even more excited to go here,” said Gaudet. “The tour made me decide to apply here early decision.”
Gaudet isn’t the only one who felt this way after touring Fairfield. According to Admission Counselor Jeff Holmberg, a good Tour Ambassador is able to captivate the interests of aspiring students with their enthusiasm and passion.
Tour Ambassadors can be the first impression a prospective student has and in many cases, the tour can be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing which college a student will attend.
As part of the tour, Fairfield Tour Ambassadors strive to educate their tour of the Jesuit values and principles that define Fairfield.
“I talk a little bit about the whole Jesuit idea of cura personalis – care for the whole being – and how Fairfield really allows that to come out in people,” Tour Ambassador Manager Mike Facciolo ’15 said.
However, not all of the information Tour Ambassadors must provide their tour with is straight forward, especially when it comes to the residence halls.
Rather than showing students a freshman dorm, such as Campion Hall or Gonzaga Hall that would give a better idea of where students would be living during their first year, the Tour Ambassadors bring the students to 70 McCormick Road instead.
Tour Ambassador Katie Gillette ‘15 believes that because McCormick “is one of our newer buildings on campus,” it is seen as being “a little bit more appealing to students, even though our freshman dorms are relatively the same in size.”
According to Facciolo, welcoming tours into a freshman’s dorm can be another stressor for the freshmen students, as they are still adjusting to life at Fairfield.
“Freshmen are just coming into this school,” Facciolo said. “They’re still getting adjusted to their housing assignment and their roommate, so we think it would be almost unfair to bring all these new faces into their room and into their personal space.
“That’s typically why we show a sophomore residence hall, because the students living there are more comfortable,” he added.
For Gillette, McCormick isn’t all that different from a freshman dorm, so it still gives aspiring students a good idea of how much space they’ll have as a first year student.
When asked what questions are most frequented by parents and incoming students, Facciolo refers to the quality of food and dining options.
“It’s not mom or dad’s home cooking, but the quality has gotten better over the years, which is awesome to see. I also let them know that we do tailor to everyone’s needs, in terms of food allergies,” said Gillette.
Facciolo puts more emphasis on the variety of food on campus.
“I always stress the fact that we have a lot of options for dining here. I also encourage students to take the StagBus into town, because there are a lot of great places to eat there,” he said.
Occasionally on tours, someone will ask about Fairfield’s religious affiliation. Tour Ambassadors make sure they ensure students that their religious preference won’t change how they’re viewed by their professors and peers at Fairfield.
“There’s no restriction that if you’re not Catholic, you’re not going to get into Fairfield,” Gillette said. “All of us are of different religions, we’re definitely not all Catholic, and so we definitely point that out on tours.” She also makes sure to explain that campus ministry provides transportation to off-campus services for students of different religions.
There are, however, struggles Tour Ambassadors face in trying to differentiate themselves from ambassador programs at other universities.
“I’d say the biggest challenge is finding ways in which we can ‘change the game,’” said Facciolo. “In other words, how can we show off Fairfield’s beauty in a way that is separate, special and distinct from tour guides at other institutions.”
According to Admission Counselor Corey Novak, Tour Ambassadors can impact a student or family’s perception of the university.
“Our Tour Ambassadors are our guerilla fighters – doing our jobs on the smaller and more local level,” Novak said.
Holmberg explained that tours are “not only the first impression, but also the first and only impression. For the Tour Ambassadors, it’s all about setting the tone for the school.”
For most Tour Ambassadors, the most gratifying aspect of the job is having a direct impact on a student’s reaction to Fairfield.
“There’s no greater feeling than walking around campus a year later and seeing somebody and they recognize you and they say ‘you’re my Tour Ambassador; you’re the reason that I came here.’ That’s the most rewarding thing in it for me,” Facciolo said.
Holmberg and Novak encourage any students with an interest in becoming a Tour Ambassador to apply in the spring, as they will be losing a lot of seniors, and will be looking for replacements.