Saluki Ambassadors privatize campus tours

By Gus Bode

Factoid:To apply, contact Katharine Johnson Suski at 453-2987 or [email protected]

The Saluki Ambassadors want to offer one tour guide per visiting family.

“Families are just amazed we take them on individual tours,” Katharine Johnson Suski, Saluki Ambassador coordinator said. “Some schools offer tours to groups ranging up to 40 participants. We really feel we give participants a unique experience when they visit our campus.”

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The Saluki Ambassadors are a volunteer group of current students who help recruit new students to the University. They lead weekly campus tours offering University information to prospective students, their parents and administrative guests.

When the Saluki Ambassador program was started in fall 2002, all tours of campus were given in a van. The only time participants left the vehicle was to tour housing options. In spring 2003, student guides started to lead weekly campus tours on foot.

“People couldn’t hear or see in the vans and wanted to spend more time touring housing,” Suski said.

The Saluki Ambassadors, in hopes of keeping the program’s staff stable, are recruiting volunteers. Interested students must turn in applications by Feb. 17 to the Undergraduate Admissions Reception Center in Woody Hall. Candidates should have basic knowledge of the University and maintain at least a 2.5 cumulative grade point average. Bilingual students are encouraged to apply, but ability to speak a second language is not required. Past Ambassadors have guided tours in Hindi and in Spanish.

Currently their team consists of two freshmen, two sophomores, 10 juniors and one senior. Average membership ranges from 15 to 20 people.

Suski said members are selected based on their application, references and performance in individual and group interviews.

Sarah Vorhees, a junior studying radio-television from Carterville, is the vice president of the program. Vorhees has been with the Saluki Ambassadors since fall 2003 and chose to join because she wanted to get involved in a club and at the same time give something back to the University.

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“It really gives you a lot of leadership and people skills,” Vorhees said. “Doing the tours makes you deal with a wide variety of people.”

Vorhees said the social aspect of the program has also made her involvement even more exciting.

“I’ve become pretty close with some of the members,” Vorhees said. “It’s a great service to the University, and at the same time it’s something fun.”

If chosen as a Saluki Ambassador, the participant must stay involved in the program for the entire academic year and take on the responsibility of leading two tours a week. The group can serve and guide up to 360 potential students a week. The extensive tours takes visitors on a scenic route through campus. Some stops include Altgeld Hall, Old Campus, the Student Center and Thompson Woods.

“If they can think on their feet and deal with a difficult situation, that’s really impressive,” Suski said. “I’m looking for someone that’s very mature and very involved because you never know what’s going to happen on a tour.”

Ambassadors are trained to discuss admissions, residence hall living and student activities. They have chances to participate in off-campus previews, which are offered to prospective students, in Springfield, Chicago, Downers Grove and St. Louis.

Craig Williams, a junior studying accounting from Springfield, said he joined the Saluki Ambassadors as a freshman because he enjoyed being able to give back to the University. He also said since he was a “people person,” the job’s role seemed fitting. Besides organizational skills, Williams said his position as the group’s secretary has taught him how to be a leader.

“Since you’re communicating with so many different kinds of people, you gain great communication skills,” Williams said. “Being able to speak in front of someone you absolutely don’t know and trying to comfort and relate to them is a good challenge.”

Reporter Nicky Jacobs can be reached at [email protected]

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