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Ambassadors no longer just volunteers

MATT ROBLES/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Kara Zumbusch, a pre-business sophomore answers a question during the Arizona Ambassadors campus tour Saturday morning. The Arizona Ambassadors give campus tours throughout the year to visitors, and will now be paid for their efforts.
By Kris Cabulong
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
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About 90 student ambassadors put on UA payroll for giving campus tours

For more than two decades, Arizona Ambassadors has been strictly a volunteer organization, giving tours of the UA campus to college prospects and their parents, with not much more than moral satisfaction as compensation.

No longer.

With the start of the fall 2004 semester, the Arizona Ambassadors were put on the university's payroll, said Keith Humphrey, senior assistant director of admissions.

Humphrey said the change was due to a new focus on the role of campus tours.

"Admissions is a very competitive environment," he said. "We want the information given out on the tour to be information that the University of Arizona can be held accountable for."

"The best way to do that is to have paid employees for the tour rather than volunteers," Humphrey said.

Humphrey emphasizes the "tremendous influence" of the tours in a prospective student's decision-making. From now on, ambassadors will need to be more knowledgeable of the UA, and a greater time commitment will be required of them than in past years.

"For so many students, the Arizona Ambassadors are a key point of contact," Humphrey said. "We want ambassadors to be as knowledgeable as our admissions counselors. We can't ask that of volunteers."

Students who become part of the Arizona Ambassadors are still asked to do the same tour and to be honest about their experiences at the UA.

"That's what's important to us," Humphrey said.

"(Students and parents) always say that their tour at the UA was the best and they really appreciated the honesty and time that we had spent with them," said Kristin Clem, geography and regional development senior and Arizona Ambassadors president.

Clem joined the Arizona Ambassadors at the end of her freshman year, out of a desire to share her UA experiences with future college students.

"Arizona Ambassadors are really important to the UA community because we are representing the university to future Wildcats," Clem said. "Most often, we are the first faces they see."

The Arizona Ambassadors program began in December 1979 with two undergraduates who wanted to connect prospective college students with Wildcats fired up about the UA.

The program now has roughly 90 ambassadors.

"I've (given) tours with anywhere from four students with their parents up to, this past summer, a tour of over 75 people," said Steven Eddy, geography senior. He has been with the ambassadors for two years.

Eddy is a Tucson native, and through the years he said he developed a lot of pride for the UA even before registering as a freshman.

Like Clem, he joined the Arizona Ambassadors out of a passion for sharing UA pride.

"It's exciting and you're reaching out to younger students. It's a change for them because they're coming to college and they don't know what to expect," Eddy said.

An ambassador can expect to guide up to three tours a week, attend weekly meetings, speak at question-and-answer forums and take part in several ongoing recruitment events like UA 101, which takes place six times throughout the academic year.

But Eddy said he gets to do a little more than give tours - he also gets to sway some peoples' decisions.

"We get a lot of students and parents that are looking at both the UA and Arizona State University," he said. "They'll say, you know, 'You've completely changed my mind, and I'm going to the UA and not ASU."

"It's an accomplishment, and a good feeling to impact someone's decisions like that," Eddy said.

And now he'll also be paid to convince students to go to UA.

The 1 1/2-hour tours are given at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 10 a.m. Saturdays.

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