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Spring 2002

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Around the Pond

SNAPSHOT: FREEZE FRAME

student tour guides
ALMOST FATALLY HAPPY: Sahr Khan (center) and Anna Morozuk lead a tour. (Ben Barnhart photo)
SAHR KHAN, WHO FITS THE term "petite" in all but personality, calls out in her piping voice, “This is the last call for the campus tour! This is the last!” No one in the Campus Center Concourse turns to look, and she stops mid-sentence, turns to fellow tour guide Anna Morozuk, and grumbles, “You do it.”

Morozuk happily complies. The rich depth and strength of her voice prove effective, and suddenly parents and potential students are crowding up to the information desk next to the Campus Store. Morozuk grins as if she’s pulled all of these campus visitors out of a hat.

Khan and Morozuk, a sophomore and a senior, respectively, in communication, are campus tour guides – two of the well-trained fonts of knowledge who seem perpetually, almost fatally, happy as they go about their rounds on behalf of the UMass admissions office.

Morozuk, especially, is half tour-guide, half energetic student, and, if this were mathematically possible, another half comedian. If the group stands too far away she waves them closer, calling out, “Bring it in, let’s feel the love!”

And it works. The parents look pleased. The high-school students, potential members of next fall’s entering class, pry their eyes from the guides only when specifically instructed to notice the library, the Student Union, the Campus Pond. On this bright March day everything seems to be showing off for us – these guides, the Canada geese doing acrobatics on the pond, the UMass students braving the brisk air in shorts and shooting quick glances at the potential newbies.

On prime days – high-school vacation days, mostly – as many as 200 people show up for the hour-and-a-half-long, student-led tours, which leave the Campus Center twice-daily, seven days a week, nearly every week of the year.
Every group is its own dense mass of eagerness and questions. You have to be a people-person, says Khan.

“Even if you’re having a bad day, you get to give a good tour and feel great,” Khan says. “You’re helping people.” She grins. “And students remember later that you were their tour guide.”

Even in these difficult times for UMass, no one in today’s group asks the guides about budget cuts. Morozuk raises the subject once, in connection with campus safety: “I won’t lie to you,” she says, her voice still hearty. “We might not have the escort service next year.” Later she tells me that budget questions do come up occasionally, and are usually referred to admissions or departments as the most up-to-date sources.


AS WE WALK TO OUR NEXT destination, a Maryland parent asks me about the effect of faculty retirements at UMass. Her daughter, who’s auditioning for the dance department, has received a letter saying the program may be cut. “This was my daughter’s first choice; so now what do we do?” she asks quietly. “I told her to try it out for a year, and if the program is really being cut, she can go elsewhere.”

Midway through the tour the parents start sneaking off to nearby benches during stops. “I never had that much energy,” says a parent from New York, tipping his head toward Khan and Morozuk.

It’s a lot to absorb in a short span of time. We slide through the library, survey two dorm areas, peek into a Herter Hall classroom, ask questions, ask questions. The tour guides, those consummate salesmen, quickly learn the names of all the potential students in the group, and use them in any examples. “Okay, let’s say Kara moves here with a friend from high school!”
Their enthusiasm is infectious. I find myself telling a family from Boston how beautiful Western Mass is. They nod politely at my obvious fanaticism.

At least four times during the tour, friends of Khan and Morozuk walk by, call out and wave hello. It could have been scripted. Their friendliness makes UMass feel cozy – a desirable impression. Within a very short time the guides have managed to give shape to the sometimes gangly structure of the campus, infusing it with personality, separating it into zones. It takes no longer than 15 minutes to get from one end of the academic zone to the other, they explain – a relief to high-schoolers remembering the year they had a locker near the gym.

And everywhere we’re surrounded by UMass students with their books and backpacks and the occasional skateboard, walking singly or in tight groups of friends. For a moment, I see them through the eyes of a parent: Of course this could be my daughter, stopping to admire the sunlight on the pond, swinging through the rotating doors of the library, smiling even though she’s away from home – happy, safe, and always learning.

Our tour ends at Knowlton, a Northeast Area dorm with a model room for tour group inspection. We squeeze in and admire the mini-microwave and fridge, the fake flowers, the message board with fake messages, the strategically scattered UMass paraphernalia, the carefully made beds.

“Oh, no dorm room is this clean,” one mother pooh-poohs. But it’s the only time today these parents have seemed skeptical.


[top of page]

NEVER GIVE UP

BUDGET IMPACTS

NEW CHANCELLOR ANNOUNCED

PRESIDENT'S ANNUAL APPEAL

TO BOSTON, WITH FLOWERS

UMASS DAY

E-WISH YOU WERE HERE

UP-TO-THE-MINUTEMAN

IT'S A MICROORGANISM'S LIFE -

SNAPSHOT: FREEZE FRAME

CHANCELLOR WILLIAMS: LARGER IMAGE

WE HAVE A WINNER: LARGER IMAGE

UP-TO-THE-MINUTEMAN: LARGER IMAGE

HIGHLIGHTS: "Gone when we got there" / Dept. of distinctions / Hail and Farewell

LARGER IMAGE: Snapshot


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