Guides of Texas Find A New Path Online
By Faith Castle
Photography By Faith Avery
AUSTIN, TX— After the University shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Guides of Texas created a “new guide” to maintain their positions with the University.
The Guides of Texas, a group of students who lead campus tours, found themselves out of work after University President Greg Fenves closed operations on Mar. 13. To continue their role, The Guides of Texas, under UT Admissions, formed a Virtual Online Tour for prospective students.
The Virtual Tour originally included a 30-minute informational session with an appearance from a few of the Guides to answer questions.
“Their priority has been to share just as much information as they can,” Guides of Texas Student Ambassador Bodie Lowe said.
According to News and World Report, making a college visit and touring the campus can be pivotal in a student’s decision to apply to school. The Guides of Texas wanted more involvement with the tours, so they created a formal version to capture the in-person experience. The reduced 60-minute tour includes similar campus spots, but with less walking.
“It’s definitely going to be an adjustment,” Lowe said. “But that’s the plan for now.”
Virtual Tours are offered twice a day on weekdays through Zoom. Lowe said prospective students typically join the virtual tour with their cameras and microphones turned off while asking questions through a chatbox. This stood as a challenge to the Guides, who already face the difficulty of getting students to speak.
“It’s honestly hard to get tour guests to talk in person sometimes,” Lowe said. “I normally rely on those moms who smile and nod.
While some tour guides find new ways to interact, others will recover in person sessions that were cancelled due to coronavirus outbreak. Guides of Texas Communication Chair Caroline Frankenfeld said in order to include more Guides, there are various tasks available.
“Zoom sessions, Call Projects, and starting this coming week, giving tours like normal,” Frankenfeld said.
The Call Project is a private conversation between the guides and prospective students on Google Voice. Frankenfeld said that this was created after the UT Admissions Center cancelled roughly over 1,000 student tour campus visits.
While the virtual plan is still testing its first week, The Guides of Texas are happy to have the option of returning to work. Frankenfeld said she’s glad to be a part of the process because it could’ve been easy to do a virtual tour without tour guides.
“You can only get so much from a ton of links online,” Frankenfeld said. “Even though I won’t be with them personally, I think it’s better than a slide with no student voices.”
The online tour is currently running until May 29. The University is still debating whether or not the tour will be in-person or online this summer.
“Our worries is that these families won’t be able to see UT,” Frankenfeld said. “We’re going to still be doing our jobs the best we can but it’s going to be online.”