Ambassadors help convince prospects that KU is the place to be.
It's not exactly a health club, but Kansas University Ambassadors do get a workout while giving tours to prospective students and family members.
In a typical tour, a group of up to about 20 people will start at Strong Hall, walk their way down to the Chi Omega fountain, head down Naismith Drive by Learned Hall, back up behind Wescoe, down Jayhawk Boulevard past Fraser to the Kansas Union before heading back to Strong about 45 minutes after they left.
And, in order for the group to hear, the guides make the trek walking backwards.
"You find all these muscles in your legs you never knew you had before," said Kate McGee, a Loveland, Colo., senior who has been giving the tours since her sophomore year.
The tours are designed to serve as an introduction to student life at KU. Ambassadors talk about the history of the campus, life at different residence halls, and various services that the university provides.
"That really made my transition easier," said Mitch Taylor, Tulsa, who just finished his freshman year at KU. "I was kind of nervous about going to a big school, but the tour kind of made campus seem manageable."
According to Kim Beeler, assistant director of admissions, the strength of the program lies in the sincerity of the ambassadors.
"Our program is unique because it's a volunteer program," she said. "They're doing this because they love the university, they love KU, and they want to let other people know about it."
The ambassadors serve as the ever-important first impression for those considering KU.
While the university provides many getting-to-know-you programs, many students remember their first campus tour.
"I just really thought it was helpful to see the campus," Taylor said. "I could picture myself here, and a lot of the questions I had been wondering about were answered, too."
In fact, Beeler said about "60 to 65 percent" of students who are coming to KU make that decision based at least in part on their campus tour.
"What we have found is the number one influence is the campus tour," Beeler said. "This is their first opportunity to view KU from a student's perspective, they really feel good about talking to a current student, they feel like they're getting the true scoop."
In addition to giving the tours, ambassadors also participate on student panels on campus and in high schools fielding inquiries about the university.
"They answer all kinds of questions," Beeler said. "Questions about academics, questions about financial aid.'"
McGee estimates she volunteers about 10 hours a week to the ambassador program.
"But I really love what I do," she said.
Part of the enthusiasm of the ambassadors comes from the selection process. The latest interview session completed earlier this summer, and there were about 75 applications to choose from, so only the most outstanding candidates are picked.
"We are able to be very selective in who we choose," Beeler said. "We want students who are enthusiastic about KU, involved in different areas at KU, we like to see a diversity, and we like outgoing, friendly, responsible and reliable students."
The ambassador who exhibits the most of these qualities is given the Heather Norris Ambassador of the Year Award, named after an ambassador who was killed on a highway on her way back from a spring break trip this year.
McGee -- who also serves as a resident assistant at McCollum Hall -- has been doing the tours since her sophomore year, and says she's enjoyed the experience.
"It's great," she said. "It's a good way to be involved in the campus and meet some new people."
-- Sam Mellinger's phone message number is 832-7189. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.