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   Date: 4/12/10 Bookmark and Share

Smith Tour Guides Reveal (Gold) Keys to Campus

By Julie Colatrella ’12

Wanted: student employees to undergo hours of intensive training and walk repeated loops around campus, sometimes backwards. For no pay. Must really love Smith.

Title: Gold Key guide.

Current students may not see or notice them, but for visiting families, including prospective Smith students, Gold Key guides are the face and voice of the college. And, true to the Smith tendency, Gold Keys do things a little differently than the average tour guide.

For one thing, Gold Key guides—unlike tour guides at peer colleges—aren’t paid. That may make them sound a little crazy to some, but it allows Smith’s guides to say what they want without a script.

Tours at Smith, therefore, are personalized and the guides can share with visitors aspects they like most about the college. Prospective students can get in-depth information about the things they’re interested in.

“Most prospies [when filling out their applications] cite our tours as the reason they came to Smith,” notes Gold Key guide Christianne Beasely ’12. For Beasley, influencing a student’s decision to come to Smith is the most rewarding part of the job.

Smith’s tour groups are also much smaller than those at most colleges. Except for large events, like Open Campus or Spring Preview, tours usually include only one guide and one family. Visiting students can choose the spaces they most want to see and guides are free to answer specific questions while sharing personal anecdotes.

However, just because Gold Keys don’t have to memorize scripts doesn’t mean they don’t have to learn the hard facts about Smith. As part of their training, new guides attend special tours of certain buildings and departments so that they are prepared for questions. Also, they are required to “shadow” well-versed guides three times before conducting their own tours.

Still, Gold Key guides aren’t human statistics sheets, rambling off a jumble of numbers that don’t stick in visitors’ heads. Instead, Smith’s guides share fun facts about traditions like Convocation and Julia Child Day, and the secrets behind the layout and architecture of campus. Also, Gold Key guides always show their own houses as part of the tour.

“Showing my house is my favorite part,” says Beasley. “The fact that I am a sophomore and have a huge room literally makes people’s jaws drop. I once gave a special tour and fit 30 people in my room. Dorms like palaces? I think so.”

As for walking backwards, there’s no way to generalize. Gold Key shirts and posters joke about walking backwards, and many guides do so because it allows them to be heard more clearly, but just as many avoid the action because they feel it’s impersonal.

Like the Smithies they are, Gold Keys just prefer to do things their own unique way.

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