Showing off UW-Eau Claire

Story by Eric Christenson

You’ve probably seen them on campus: thick gold and blue-striped rugby shirts leading gaggles of nervous, high school students and their concerned parents.

Whether it’s on a bright May morning or in the bitter winter wind on the footbridge, you’ve seen them.

They’re called Campus Ambassadors, and it’s their duty to comfortably usher prospective students from high school, other colleges or even separate countries into life at UW-Eau Claire.

Senior Nick Goffard said seeing the tour guides in action is what inspired him to become an Ambassador.  Now, four years later, he’s the president of the organization.

“Freshman year, I just fell in love with Eau Claire,” Goffard said.  “It’s a university that’s given me so much, I really wanted to give back as much as I could. I saw tour guides all the time and it just looked so cool and what a great way to give back.”

Eau Claire sees approximately 14,000 prospective students and other visitors every year, and senior Kerry Manion said that reaching out to them is one of the most crucial facets of the Ambassadors.

“Just bringing students in is a really important aspect that’s often overlooked of going out and telling these kids that Eau Claire is accessible to them and a great place for them to be,” said Manion, who is also in her fourth year being an Ambassador.  “And it’s important to hear it coming from a student.”

 

Earning their stripes

 

Ambassadors need to get nominated, said Heather Kretz, who is a Campus Ambassadors co-advisor.  She said the organization puts out a call for professor and current Ambassadors to nominate people they think would make a great Ambassador.

Kretz said there are usually about 200 nominees and from there, the organization has information meetings that the nominees can attend to learn more and see if they want to continue in the application process.

At the info sessions, the students pick up an application and once it’s submitted, Kretz and fellow Co-Advisor Danielle Widmer interview every single applicant.

Goffard said he was nominated by one of his freshman year professors, but he said a big part of being an Ambassador is nominating others who shine.

“A lot of times you can just apply for whatever job you’re interested in, but what’s unique about the Ambassadors is that we need to see potential (and that) you’re a good representation of campus and that you’d do a good job.”

Kretz said after that, current Ambassadors and the advisors hold a selection meeting. The candidates are then trained at the end of April and more or less ensconced for the rest of their time at Eau Claire.

 

AMBASSADORS IN ACTION

 

Giving tours to incoming freshmen is actually only a fraction of what Ambassadors do.

Kretz said that the Ambassadors assist alumni, transfer students, families of prospective students, the chancellor and the Activities and Programs office.  But by far, they’re used most by admissions and recruitment.

The Ambassador program is diverse so as to gain lots of different perspectives on Eau Claire.  Kretz said that’s something the program is really proud of.

“We try to make sure we have a … variety of majors, a variety of years in school, hometowns, involvement across campus, research, study abroad opportunities,” Kretz said. “They really are giving a face to
the campus.”

Goffard said that because the Ambassadors are so diverse, it allows every tour to be different.  Whether it’s coming from an international student or from a variety of different majors, it’s always a new story.

“You get so many different perspectives of campus; it’s just one united body that loves UW-Eau Claire.” Goffard said.

 

GUIDING THE WAY

 

Giving tours aren’t difficult for Manion, who said it’s easy to get excited about leading a group.

“I remember moving into campus my freshman year and my neighbor was an Ambassador and I always saw her going out and giving the tours,” Manion said.  “She would always come back so excited — it’s a tour high — and you’re just super jacked because these kids are really excited about Eau Claire, and now you are too.”

Goffard said his favorite place to take students is the footbridge.

“Not only is it the best spot to see all of campus, but the view is absolutely stunning year-round — especially after a good snowfall,” he said.And it’s not all serious either.  Goffard said he tries to make jokes and be lighthearted on tours.

“It’s a serious thing, but you want to have fun with it.” he said. “You’ll find that Ambassadors have lots of jokes and we like to do lots of goofy things to get people laughing.  I like to think I’m really funny on tours.”

There’s more to touring than wearing a flashy rugby and talking about campus.  Manion said it’s about connecting with tours and making prospectives excited about Eau Claire.

“You start out by just introducing yourself and trying to make them feel comfortable with you as their tour guide,” she said.  “You make yourself accessible so they can ask you questions.  You want to make it personal and make it so they can picture themselves here.”

Goffard agreed that there’s a certain technique to giving prospective students insight into the campus, and he said that’s accomplished through personality, not facts.

“We have viewbooks and lots of brochures, and you could read a statistic in there like ‘one in four students studies abroad here at Eau Claire,’” Goffard said. “But it really takes a student or a representative to say ‘I studied abroad’ — and I actually did study abroad— ‘I went to Australia and it was the greatest experience of my life; Eau Claire gave that to me.’”

Manion stressed that it’s about engaging the prospective students on tours and allowing them to see themselves here on campus and the possibilities accessible to them.

“If they’re able to picture themselves as students and relate to you,” Manion said, “that’s the biggest impact.”

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Katie Hoffman is a copy editor for The Spectator as well as a Campus Ambassador.