Welcome to Emory: Student tour guides put on a good face

Emory Magazine | Jan. 1, 2015

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Tour guide Maddie Clifton shares her Emory story with prospective students and parents. Emory Photo/Video.

Giving a tour to a group of fifteen prospective students and parents, Maddie Clifton 14OX 16C hits all the campus highlights, from the Michael C. Carlos Museum
and the freshman dorms to the Woodruff Library and the dining hall at Dobbs University Center.

The Savannah native also sprinkles in fun facts about her own Emory experience, such as how she used the writing center to help get an A on her first college essay, and where her favorite study spot on campus is located.

“I love talking to people about what their aspirations are, what they are looking to get out of a college,” says Clifton, who has served as a tour guide with the Office of Undergraduate Admission since her freshman year at Oxford College. “It is rewarding to see the people you helped recruit on campus and have them come up to say, ‘Hey, you were my tour guide, thank you so much.’ They look to you as a mentor. That is just so exciting.” 

A double major in political science and interdisciplinary studies, Clifton tells prospective students that it was the opportunity to study liberal arts and pursue research that attracted her to Emory. Accepted to both Emory College and Oxford College, she chose to start at Oxford for the historic campus and sense of community she felt at Oxford.

“You get the opportunity to tell personal stories on a tour, and it makes you really think about what you like about your school, what you don’t like about your school, and what kinds of students you want at your school,” Clifton says. “Finding your fit is the most important thing.”

High school senior Austin Ragusa and his father, Mark Ragusa, were on Clifton’s tour on an October morning. No strangers to the process, it was their seventh college tour.

“Maddie was very informative, and it was great that she went to both Oxford and Emory and could talk about that,” Austin Ragusa says. “You can tell she is really a student here and enjoyed every minute of her experience.”

Joel Dobben 12C, an undergraduate admission counselor, coordinates the Emory Student Ambassador program and served as a tour guide himself as a student. 

“We are looking for students who are very adaptable and articulate, who are able to share their love of the university and think on their feet,” says Dobben. 

Students interested in becoming tour guides apply in the fall and undergo an extensive interview process. It’s a popular job; this year, 250 students applied for seventy spots. Each new crop of tour guides is selected to represent a range of academic and extracurricular interests, backgrounds, and experiences.

Those chosen receive a manual and ten hours of training, shadow an experienced guide, and then conduct “buddy tours” with another trainee before they can lead groups on their own. Within basic parameters, they’re encouraged to make the tours their own by letting their personal style and experiences shine. 

“We want visitors to come away feeling that they engaged with a friendly community,” Dobben says. “For these students to take the time to participate in this program shows the degree to which they love this place and have an affinity for their community.”