The numbers are impressive. There are 102 URI student guides who give their famous 90-minute, 2.1-mile tour around the Kingston Campus to approximately 40,000 visitors each year. Three tours leave the Union every weekday and select Saturdays. Rain or shine.
“Our visitors get a good look at academic buildings, classrooms, the library, where students eat and live on campus, and our athletic amenities,” said sophomore Shanique King, an accounting major. “The tour starts and ends in the Memorial Union, which is the center of student life on campus. Through the tour, students really get a feel for what it is like being a student at URI.”
And, they get to ask their questions—all kinds of questions. What is it like living in the residence halls? Will I be able to pick my roommate? Where’s the nearest mall? Is there an Amtrak station nearby? What do students usually do on the weekends for fun? How’s the food? Where can I get a late-night snack? Tour guides say there are lots of questions about food—and that the dining options at URI are always a high point for both students and their parents.
What do students usually do on the weekends for fun? How’s the food? Where can I get a late-night snack?
“Since we have so many accommodations and dining options for students, the visitors are almost always excited to learn about them,” said junior communicative disorders major Kerry Walsh.
Student guides say that no two tours are the same, which makes it interesting. They love what they do, and they are very well prepared. Selected each fall from a competitive pool of applicants, they must memorize a 50-page manual, learn to converse easily with prospective students and parents, and provide valuable information tailored to the interests of the group that is touring—all while walking backwards.
Their training is focused and continuous. In addition to mastering the manual and tour route inside and out, their training includes workshops in public speaking, the art of storytelling, facts and figures about URI, and how to effectively answer questions. Diversity and safe-zone trainings are also included in their preparation.
“The philosophy of the tour guide program is that there is always more we can learn about the University and we can always make the tours better,” says admission advisor Erin West Earle ’04, MS ’09, who has been involved with the program for 12 years—including as an undergraduate tour guide. “We even give quizzes to be sure the students keep current.” As a result, URI tour guides know they have an important job—to give prospective students an authentic experience of URI.
“Everyone seems to want to know most about what it is like living here at URI,” said Thomas Garabedian, a junior majoring in industrial engineering with a minor in business.
Tour guide Kerry Walsh says this is a privilege. “I am extremely passionate about URI and the opportunities available to all students. I would love to help someone have the same amazing experience that I’ve had here.”