Monday, April 27, 2015

An Extracurricular for the Real World

As a Macalester sophomore, the extracurricular that I’ve taken the most pride in thus far has been serving in the admissions office. In addition to being a whole lot of fun, working in admissions helps me develop skills that will be vital in a professional setting after I graduate. I have been a campus tour guide since the spring semester of my first year, and beginning this semester I’m also one of the student coordinators of the tour guide program. My duties in that position include recruiting, training in, and mentoring new tour guides, keeping in contact with guides about their tour times, and answering questions from campus visitors via email and social media. I have also applied and am waiting to hear back about working as an admissions assistant in the summer, which would involve writing articles for admissions publications and interacting with visitors face-to-face.
There are two main reasons that I believe my roles in admissions are important for personal and professional development. First, my current job as a tour guide coordinator has extraordinarily developed my ability to work as a member of a team. I have five colleagues in the coordinator position, and together our task is to keep in contact with campus visitors and about 70 active tour guides, plus new trainees every semester. With so many people depending on us to communicate effectively and efficiently, it is essential for all six coordinators to let each other know about what emails need to be sent out, which guides have conflicts during someone’s work shift, how many visitors are coming at each tour time, and anything else we may need to know to perform our jobs at the highest level. We do have fun in the office, but we take our jobs seriously and hold each other accountable, knowing that this is the best way to achieve our common goal of putting ourselves and our school in the best possible light.
The second reason also happens to be my favorite part of the job. Being an admissions ambassador means you learn to how to interact with and assist people with an enormous range of unique backgrounds and interests, treating them each as individuals even if they may not be used to it. Between standardized tests, online applications, and mysterious admissions counselors whose faces you rarely see as an applicant, college admissions can have an unfortunate reputation of being impersonal. That’s where the beauty (you might even say the necessity) of the campus visit comes in. Student admissions ambassadors are volunteers, and tour guides must pass through a training process that takes a total of seven to ten hours over a few weeks. I think that speaks volumes about how excited we are to meet perspective families and show off our school.
When I get to interact with visitors on campus, I’m often intrigued by the interesting and sometimes exotic things that people are passionate about. I think what attracts a lot of students to Mac, myself included, is the huge variety of activities that are accessible both on campus (through student clubs) and off campus (since we’re right in the middle of a metropolitan area that’s easy to get around via bus, light rail, or even on your bike). Students involved in admissions work make it a goal to interact with each student and family as individuals, tailoring our advertisement of Mac to their particular interests and answering specific questions as best we can.
My personal favorite off-campus activity. The Midtown Greenway is a car-free trail cutting through Minneapolis and it’s easy to get there from campus on roads with dedicated bike lanes!


That said, my knowledge of Mac life is limited to some degree by the personal college experience I’ve shaped for myself. I could talk all day about the things I’m involved in, but the minor downside of having so many opportunities is that one can’t do everything as a single student. Sometimes, to quote Ringo Starr, I have to get by with a little help from my friends. If I ever can’t come up with a satisfactory reply to a question, my next step is to put the visitor in contact with someone who can.
In this way, being in admissions builds my social and professional interaction skills twofold. I learn how to best help people with different backgrounds, and it encourages me to build a diverse community of friends so that I can have someone at hand for virtually every question. In addition to building these skills, I take personal pride in accommodating each visitor to the best of my ability, since I know it will help preserve Mac as what it is now: an institution where diversity is welcomed and encouraged, and where everyone is able to thrive from a strong commitment to their personal passions.
Dan Klonowski ’17 (Chicago, IL)