Taken from Inforum.com, Published November 1, 2010
When prospective Minnesota State University Moorhead students arrive on campus for their first visit, they usually look nervous.
But after student tour guide Michael Russell shows them around, they’re often excited to become Dragons.
Russell, 22, is in his fifth year working for the Admissions Office, giving tours to potential MSUM students.
The Watertown, S.D., native, enjoys tailoring the tour to the student’s interests and major. He rarely gets a question he can’t answer.
Russell gives tours two to three times each week, more often when MSUM hosts campus preview days. Most students who take tours are high school juniors or seniors.
Russell, who will graduate in December with a double major in business administration and finance, said he’s gotten to know faculty all over campus after taking students to their appointments.
Q: How did you end up becoming a tour guide?
A: It was during registration my freshman year, so it would have been in the summer, and they were hiring for the Admissions Office. I thought it would always be good to have some extra money, so I started way back when I was a freshman, and I’ve been here ever since.
Do you have to memorize a lot of facts?
We get a handbook and it’s got a bunch of facts in it. You always get questions from parents, but after doing tours for so long, you pretty much know what each parent is going to ask because they’re all interested in the same things, whether it be residence halls or the meal plans or how big classes are.
What’s your favorite part of the tour?
Probably talking about the meal plans. I always talk about how it’s an all-you-can-eat setup, so I say, “If you worry about your freshman 15, this is where you’re going to get it.” Or the residence halls, because that’s the place everybody is really interested in looking at because they want to see where they’re going to be staying all year. I try and comfort them and tell them how fun it is – you get to meet all these new people.
What’s the most common question that students ask?
How’s the food? Or roommate questions. Or what’s there to do on campus? Or if they’re going to stay for the weekend, what’s there to do on the weekends? We’ve definitely implemented a lot of programs, so it’s fun to be able to mention all those.
What’s your favorite part of being a tour guide?
Just meeting all the new people all the time, really. I like meeting all the new tour guides, too. Being able to follow someone and hear them say what I say on a tour makes it cool, too. But pretty much just meeting all the families. Showing them how excited I am about campus gets them excited, too. Definitely they’re nervous coming in, and they might pretty much be set on coming here afterwards.
Do you get a sense afterwards if they’re going to come back?
You can really tell if they’re excited about it or not so excited. Usually it’s more excited than not. Then there’s people who are unsure; they still have to tour other places.
How do you balance the job with your school activities?
I actually am so into (being a) tour guide that I plan my class schedule so I can make sure that I can give tours. This semester I made it so I could give Monday, Wednesday, Friday tours, and I plan my classes around it. I just go to class and then go give tours. It’s only an hour, an hour and a half commitment per day, so you have plenty of time to get your schoolwork done.
What do you plan to do after you graduate?
I got a job at the FDIC. I’ll be a bank examiner. That’ll be fun, I think.
Will you use any of the skills that you learned as a tour guide?
It definitely helps me be more personable. For the interview, the interview process was a week long, and we had to deal with a lot of people. Being a tour guide really helped me not be shy about talking just to random people … people I’ve never met before. It makes you a lot more personable and outgoing because you have to be upbeat all the time and get people excited.