Passing the torch
It’s Saturday at 8 a.m. and the second floor of Skidmore dining hall is abuzz with groups of students adding last-minute tweaks and going over details for some activities and workshops in Admissions Ambassador Training, an American Idol-style presentation on Skidmore’s buildings and programmatic opportunities.
Divided into six teams, 40 new ambassadors are tapping into the wisdom of the head tour guides who came before them. Team names range from pop-culture references like Dunder/Mifflin to regional nods like Triple Threat: Health, History and Horses. Presentations include slides, photos, and performances, such as one team’s rap about Starbuck Center. The groups are judged by a panel of admissions counselors who provide feedback and pointers. The winning group turns out to be Team Triple Threat, each member received a coveted pair of Skidmore College mittens.
Presentation skills aren’t the only thing on the docket. Teshika Hatch ’11, assistant director of admissions who was a former head tour guide, has prepared diversity training as well. “We want to make sure the ambassadors have the language and the skills to talk about diversity—not just race and ethnicity, but also gender, class, sexuality—in a way that’s more than facts and figures,” Hatch explains.
Each team has been assigned a specific diversity topic, including the Intercultural Center, Raices (the student group dedicated to promoting Latino awareness), the Skidmore Pride Alliance, the Opportunity Program, the new intergroup-relations academic program, and the International Student Union. Each team has to explain their topic, its role and importance on campus, and why prospective students might want to come to a campus that supports and appreciates diversity in this way.
It’s a particularly resonant topic with these new ambassadors, as David Schlenker ’13, the head tour guide responsible for new hires this year, expressly focused on bringing in guides that represent the full student body on campus. The result: the most diverse cadre to date. He says, “We have a 60-40 women-to-men ratio for the first time, 33 percent students of color, 18 percent international students, four opportunity-program students, and athletes from the two varsity teams. We also have a wide representation of students from private, public, and charter schools,” he says.
A head guide for three years now, Schlenker takes diversity to heart. “I really feel that in order to promote diversity you need to promote it to prospective students. You need to find students who are just as committed to diversity as the College is, and you need tour guides who will accurately represent the demographics you’ll find on campus.”
Training also included conversations about responding to “tough” questions on tours, as well as a practical session on schedule management, plus some fun—an afternoon session of Skidmore Family Feud, jazzed up with physical challenges.
It makes for a long day, but all part of the job for these 40 new ambassadors, who were carefully selected from a record-high 115 applicants. Karlene Kunigiel ’03, associate director of admissions and tour guide coordinator, says, “They had a lot to cover and they did a great job! We try to have a nice mix of team bonding and factual information, and I think we got that.”
The students agree. “My favorite thing about being a tour guide is getting to learn new things about the school every day,” says Asher Segal ’16. “And I learned a lot today!”
To schedule a visit to Skidmore and meet a tour guide, click here.
Posted On: February 15, 2013