Specialized tours hit new stops

by Zac Hardwick | 10/13/14 6:42pm

Increased admissions programming coincides with a fall influx of prospective students.
by Katelyn Jones / The Dartmouth

Almost 400 visitors crossed the Green this weekend during the last of three “fall information days” run by the admissions office. While a similar day-long program — which includes faculty presentations, a College-sponsored lunch with current students and specialized tour routes in the afternoon — launched this summer under the name “faculty Friday,” organizers added an admissions and financial aid question-and-answer session this term.

The program takes advantage of a peak visiting time that lasts from late September to mid-October, dean of admissions Maria Laskaris said. During those few weeks in a typical year, more than 1,000 people visit campus.

“Come to campus during leaf peeping season. You’ll fall in love,” the admissions office website beckons.

Just as the office instituted the “faculty Fridays” program to accommodate the high volume of visitors in July and August, which reached record numbers this year, the “fall information days” coincide with the fall influx of prospective students.

The office developed new tours and additional programming this summer so students could explore campus in greater depth and interact with faculty members, Laskaris said.

Visitors on Monday started their day with an information session held with a faculty member in Alumni Hall. A standard campus tour followed the talk. After lunch, prospective students could visit the Thayer School of Engineering, before specialty tours — centered on the sciences, arts, residential life and entrepreneurship — set off to the corners of campus. The day concluded with an admissions question-and-answer session back in Alumni Hall.

The specialty tours show campus locations that do not fit logistically into the regular tour route, Laskaris said. The tours stop at residence halls, the Life Sciences Center, the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network’s Innovation Center, the Neukom Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation Lab, the top of the Hopkins Center and the Black Family Visual Arts Center.

Including these locations in the regular campus tours, Laskaris said, simply wasn’t feasible.

“As the campus has grown, our 45-minute walking tour really can’t cover the entire campus,” she said.

Thienan Dang ’16, who guides tour groups to the Life Sciences Center, said that the admissions office asked trained tour guides with experience in relevant fields to lead new tours, which are geared toward prospective students with particular interests. While her script tells her how to talk about the building, Dang said, her experience as a pre-med student allows her to fill in the gaps in the script with personal stories.

In addition to academically-oriented tours, one new route takes visitors into residence halls for a taste of dorm life. Students working in the admissions office last spring developed the residential life tour in response to many students and parents who were eager to learn more about Dartmouth housing, Laskaris said.

Jessica Ma ’16, who leads the residential life tour, said the admissions office asked tour guides who were undergraduate advisors to conduct visits to residence halls.

Guests are taken to a variety of residential spaces, including the Choates and East Wheelock residence halls, where they can view common spaces and hallways but not individual rooms, Ma said.

The admissions office asked UGAs who were not tour guides to write the residential life tour script, Ma said, adding that she believes the script could be strengthened with more input from those with tour guide experience.

Fall programming also includes keynote speeches about academic opportunities by faculty in their area of expertise, Laskaris said.

Computer science professor Lorie Loeb, who delivered a keynote address this summer, said she discussed her work in the DALI Lab with campus visitors.

The new program, she said, allows prospective students and their families to gain a sense of both student and faculty experiences at Dartmouth.

“The more students can see what makes Dartmouth special, and feel the passion faculty have for both teaching and research, the better able they are to make a good decision,” Loeb said.

Other presenters include English professor Barbara Will and professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy Marcelo Gleiser.

Laskaris said she believes prospective students should hear faculty perspectives because undergraduate teaching and access to professors is one of Dartmouth’s largest assets.

The admissions office has received “terrific feedback” from students and parents, Laskaris said.

Previously, the admissions office experimented with an arts-specific tour, a tour of Thayer and the after-dark tour during the Dimensions program each spring.