Center encourages high school students to become Bears

By Emily Freed

The quaint little cottage that is home to the University of Northern Colorado Visitors Center appears quiet and dormant, but inside it is filled with ringing phones, talk of admissions and the sound of tour videos.

The Visitors Center, located at 1862 10th Ave., is made up of three levels, each of which has a specific purpose.

The basement is reserved for telecounseling and is filled with computers and phone stations. Telecounselors call prospective students to remind them about overdue admission paperwork or to welcome them to the school.

The UNC Visitors Center
The UNC Visitors Center is open year round for campus tours. Photo by Emily Freed.

“Telecounselors mainly just call people and say ‘Congratulations for being accepted, do you have any questions?’” said Lindsey Knight, a senior history and secondary education major, who worked as a daily tour guide at the Visitors Center from fall 2006 to fall 2009.

The top level of the center holds the admissions counselors’ offices. The main admissions office is in Carter Hall, but it is more convenient for both students and staff to have the counselors working alongside the tour guides.

Knight said the building was used as the president of the university’s home until it was turned into the Visitors Center in 1999. The counselors’ offices upstairs were once the bedrooms for the president’s family.

Between the basement and the upstairs is the heart of the brick building. Phones are answered, appointments are made, counselors are met and tours are started on this floor, which is operated by tour guides.

Chris Bierdeman, the new students events coordinator, supervises the tour guides and relays information to Stephenie Anderson, the head daily tour guide. The guide position is broken up into two levels, and only after a tour guide has become established at the Visitors Center may he or she apply for the position of daily tour guide.

Visitors Center guides provide 45-minute tours to prospective students on preview days and event days only. Daily tour guides give 90-minute tours on weekdays, as well as telecounsel and set up appointments.

Knight said tour guides must be friendly, knowledgeable, approachable and have loud voices.

“Walking backward actually isn’t a requirement, but it should be,” she said.

About 60 people are trained and capable of giving tours, and 10 to 15 of them are daily tour guides, Knight said.

The Visitors Center hosts special event days that are intended for more specific prospective students. Junior days are for high school juniors who are getting an early start on choosing a college, and scholar days are for students including Boettcher Scholars, a small group of Colorado high school students who will receive a full-ride scholarship to any university within the state. Middle school tours are given to students from the Greeley area.

Preview days are the biggest event days the Visitors Center hosts in terms of volume of students and activities. These days are filled with tours, presentations, meetings with prospective students and even a meal at the dining hall.

About the Visitors Center

• The Visitors Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located at 1862 10th Ave.

•  Tours are given weekdays at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m

. •  The Visitors Center is open year-round, with the exception of major holidays.

• Tour guides are given UNC apparel, which they may keep after working at the center for an extended amount of time.
•  Most guide positions are filled by students with work study.

Sources: unco.edu/admissions and Lindsey Knight

The employees of the Visitors Center not only work on campus, but through the Becoming a Bear program, they visit Colorado high schools to speak about UNC.

“Tour guides and admissions counselors go to different cities, and it’s like application days,” Knight said. “They would go to Colorado Springs or Denver, where people can bring in their applications and be admitted on the spot.”

Guides are given a script to memorize before giving tours, but information about UNC is ever-changing. To help keep their information current, representatives from buildings and areas on campus can speak to the Visitors Center staff about what’s new.

“If something was happening with the library, they could come give a presentation to us so we could tell people that come on our tours, so it’s not old information,” Knight said.

The center also owns a van that is used to transport visitors around campus on regular tour days. Only daily guides are trained to operate the van, which is decorated with a mural of campus images including Gunter Hall, a bear and students walking on a path.

The atmosphere inside the Visitors Center is intentionally casual and welcoming.

“The whole goal is when people walk in, there’s the couches, you’re supposed to sit down and relax before your tour,” Knight said. “The dining room is still set up like a dining room, so when you’re meeting with an admissions counselor it’s like you’re just sitting down relaxing, it’s not super official. We take it very seriously, but it’s also not supposed to be a very stressful thing at all.”