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