It's tour time!
You see them all over campus, usually leading a group of prospective students and parents on campus tours. You'll also notice something unique about the people leading these groups, they're almost always walking backwards, constantly engaging students with questions and facts about the university, telling them which buildings house which majors, and making sure they have the time of their lives!
Current members of UNI's Student Admissions Ambassadors.
The University of Northern Iowa's Student Admissions Ambassadors (SAA) is a select, volunteer group of 50 UNI students who serve as hosts to prospective students and campus visitors. In addition to campus tours, SAA is involved with service projects in and around the community.
"To me, it's [SAA] is a group of students who are really passionate about UNI and just love being here!" said Cynthia Carrazco, a junior majoring in leisure, youth and human services and current SAA member. "We've all come together to make UNI a place prospective students want to come to when they're ready to go to college."
An evolving group - The SAA timeline
Prior to 1987, student employees in the UNI Office of Admissions primarily gave campus tours. In 1987, the Student Alumni Council (SAC) and Student Ambassadors merged groups – becoming the Student Alumni Ambassadors (SAA).
Throughout the years, SAA has served as the "face of UNI" for admissions, the alumni office, the foundation and other departments around campus. Responsibilities and demands increased, but the group's main focus stayed on campus tours, student panels and campus visits.
In 2007, the group changed its name to the Student Admissions Ambassadors to reflect the evolving nature of the group. Also, the formation of an alumni student group, Connecting Alumni to Students (CATS) alleviated most of the responsibilities that SAA had with alumni events. SAA now devotes most of its time to admissions functions - while CATS is responsible for alumni functions. They serve as "bookend" groups - one working with incoming students, the other working with future and current alums.
It's tour time!
Something that makes SAA unique is that each tour is different. "We really want our SAA members to make it their own. My tour is completely different from a tour you might get from another student," said Thomas Madsen, a senior majoring in economics and serving as president of SAA.
"That's what really makes students love this university and love our tours, it's not some written script – 'In this building in 1847…' – we interject dates, but instead of just dates and facts, we talk about experiences," said Madsen.
So, if you're passion for UNI is overflowing and you don't mind walking backwards while giving a great tour of campus, check out SAA. Applications are currently being accepted until Nov. 16 - application directions are on the SAA website.
"When students think back about why they came to UNI, I can almost guarantee you part of the reason was because of the campus tour and that we made them feel like they could be at home here," said Madsen.