Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Pomona College Magazine is published three times a year by Pomona College
550 N. College Ave, Claremont, CA 91711

Online Editor: Mark Kendall

For editorial matters:
Editor: Mark Wood
Phone: (909) 621-8158
Fax: (909) 621-8203

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Phone: (909) 621-8635
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Pomona’s student tour guides are full of facts and fancy footwork...

Talking Fast & Walking Backward

Spend a little time at Pomona and you get used to seeing students walking backwards
while gushing forth facts and anecdotes about the campus. These students are not
oddballs but ambassadors, and they’re invariably followed by groups of high schoolers
and parents who have come to check out the College.

Student-led tours offer applicants much more than an opportunity to gawk at Pomona’s
stately architecture and lush landscaping. The tour may be their first chance to talk
to a Pomona student, peek into a dorm room and catch a glimpse of college life. Comment
cards visitors fill out afterwards show that the tours often help high-schoolers decide
to apply here.

Leading these tours requires some fancy footwork in the literal and figurative senses,
whether the guide is walking backwards (so they can address the group without stopping)
or fielding questions from parents.

On just about every tour, somebody sheepishly asks Nick Creech ’07 what he doesn’t like
about Pomona. His response depends on his mood. One day, Creech might mention that
while being at a small college has plenty of advantages; it also can be insular at
times.

Still, Creech is quite pleased he picked Pomona and it shows as he leads tour groups
around. Ever smiling, he speaks quickly but clearly, sharing as many anecdotes as he
can about the campus.

“I could talk the whole time and not get to everything I could theoretically say,” says
Creech, a cognitive science major who is mulling a minor in religious
studies.

Creech studied up on his facts when he became a guide, but much of his knowledge comes
from his own immersion in the Pomona experience. Creech is a busy guy. He’s a member of
the men’s a cappella singing group, the college choir and the men’s volleyball team.
He’s doing research with Professor Deborah Burke and is participating in the Turkish
literature seminar.

Having students lead the tours is key because they can talk about what classes they’re
taking and what it’s like to be a student. Visitors “feel like they’re getting the
inside scoop,’’ says Daniel Krause ’99, an admissions officer who oversees the tours.
Guides are unpaid, but Krause typically gets more volunteers than he needs. Many
volunteer because they had positive memories of their own tour at Pomona when they were
deciding on colleges.

Guides go through a training session, take a mock tour with a student intern and then
go along with a more seasoned guide on a real tour. The backwards walk is the source of
much joking, but guides aren’t required to do it.

While tours typically follow the same general route, guides can add personal touches.
Creech likes to stop his group in front of a vending machine in Mudd-Blaisdell
residence hall and note the box where students can request that their favorite munchies
be added to the snack selection. That’s an example of “the perks of being here in a
small school,” he tells them.

Outside Thatcher Music Building, Creech stands next to a fountain and tells the group
about the tradition of students getting thrown in on their birthday. This fountain, he
notes, is perfect for the task because of its depth and proximity to south campus
dorms.

Tours are given three times each weekday while school is in session and once each
Saturday. The tours reach their peak in spring after acceptance letters go out. Last
year, 200 people showed up for a single tour on the morning after a weekend event for
admitted students.

Creech likes the idea of helping Pomona to attract a talented pool of applicants.
Earlier this year, a freshman came up to him and said “you gave my tour” and said he
had enjoyed it. “He said that was part of why he applied to the school,” says Creech.
“And he’s a great guy.”
—Mark Kendall
©Copyright 2004
by Pomona College
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