Driving the overhaul of the campus tour is colleges' desire to provide visitors a more natural, spontaneous and, ideally, more engaging experience -- and to relieve mothers, in particular, of the nagging worry that their guide might, at any moment, fall backward over a bicycle rack.
The changes have been fortunate for Katie Rice, 21, a senior at Hendrix and long-time guide here, who does not even know when her school was founded -- "I just tell my groups it was a long time ago," she says -- and who never did get the hang of walking backward.
"Look at these shoes," she said the other day,...
Though some have done so on their own, others have been urged to turn their guides around by a private consulting firm called Target X. It charges colleges thousands of dollars to "audit" their tours and look at other aspects of how they present themselves to visitors, including visitor parking.
What did stick was her guide telling her group about a theme night in the cafeteria that commemorated the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"He told us how, on the east side of the room, the cooks removed all the salt and pepper shakers, took all the tablecloths away and served really bad food," she said. "On the west side, they gave nice German candy and decorated the place really well."
Hendrix has emerged as enough of a pace-setter for the modern campus tour that administrators from as far away as Bennington College in Vermont have traveled to Arkansas to see the program.
Colleges Seek to Remake the Campus Tour
By JACQUES STEINBERG
Published: August 19, 2009
Tour guides are being told to favor anecdotes over statistics, and to stop walking backward.