Exploring the company we keep at UCI and beyond

Roller derby girls. God Without Religion. Harry Potter enthusiasts (fanatics?). These are a small sampling of the groups and organizations that have formed at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and around Orange County. Members share a devotion to their cause and a desire to pursue it in collaboration with others, which are the subjects we examine in this blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

UCI Campus Representative Enthusiasm Proves Necessary for Success

By Danielle Mohler

Twenty minutes before noon on Wednesday, January 20th, Jessica Rice crosses the sidewalk as she walks from the ASUCI shuttle stop next to Lee’s Sandwiches in The University Center to the bridge connecting the University of California at Irvine’s main campus with the real world. Although the rain storm creates havoc amongst Irvine’s 27,631 inhabitants on campus, the Campus Representatives, a group of forty undergraduate UCI students who lead campus tours and participate in campus fairs, claim a “Rainy day policy: we give tours, RAIN OR SHINE!” About fifteen minutes before noon, Jessica walks to the Visitor Center located at the edge of the Student Center, which offers daily necessities and errands for students. Here in the Visitor Center, CReps gather every Wednesday for mandatory check-ins as well as to meet up with prospective high school juniors and seniors with their parents. Giving a quick update to her fellow CReps on recent happenings, she enters into the main office which organizes schedules, book bags, and friendly conversations. Dress code for tours includes either a CRep polo shirt or a CRep sweatshirt and a name tag. Today, Jessica will be hosting a Noon Tour, given primarily to interested applicants, consisting of only four members; however, the rain storm might just be enough to hinder the spunk necessary for Campus Representatives.

“Hi! My name is Jessica or Jess and I will be your tour guide today! I am a second year here at UCI. I was a music major, but am changing my major actually to Art History with a minor in Criminology. What majors are you guys interested in?”

This tour is considered a Noon Tour: two prospective students both arrived with an authority (one mom, the other grandma). The group meets in the Visitor Center, fills out information cards, and watches a short video. After picking up an umbrella big enough to fit almost everyone, Jess leads the way outside the Student Center beginning the tour. Each one strictly follows a format which the Representatives learn during a quarter long training session. For Noon Tours, it begins outside the Student Center. Starbucks appears on the left side of Ring Road, a mile in circumference pathway encircling UCI’s undergraduate classrooms, as the tour progresses toward Aldrich Hall, Langson Library, and Gateway Commons.

“Starbucks is definitely my favorite place. Apparently our Starbucks is the number one grossing university Starbucks in the nation and a really popular place to hang out on campus if you can find a table. We like our coffee! UCI is about eighty percent wireless so you can bring your laptop here and study with friends, and it’s open twenty-four hours during finals week along with study centers.”

Middle Earth, named after J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy in 1976, soon appears to the right. Jessica always stops here on Noon Tours because about 1,690 undergraduates live in one of these twenty-four low-rise buildings. As Jess explains the three meal-plan options, the bipolar weather of Southern California starts to battle against the umbrellas. By the time the tour arrives in Aldrich Park, home to 11,120 trees, they become counterproductive and bring chaos to the activities.

“Are you sure you guys want to continue? We can turn back at any time if you would like!”

But just as the CReps maintain an attitude of perseverance, the tour continues its path toward Rowland Hall where Physical Science classes are held, across to the School of Humanities which offers the highest number of majors at twenty-five and thirty minors, past the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, and headed back to the Student Center. Although the professionalism lagged because of the concentration of energy against the storm, Jess still remained calm and boasted about her school to prospective students during the hour long tour. First impressions make lasting impressions.

“We are now at the end of our tour! I’d just quickly like to remind you guys about the housing tours at 1:30 and 2:30 that leave from the Visitors Center, and I also have evaluation cards for you to fill out back at the Visitors Center, so if you liked my tour my name is Jessica, and if you didn’t my name is Grace. I’ll stay behind and answer any questions you may have. Otherwise we’ll head back to the Visitors Center and thank you for taking a tour here at UCI!”

Campus tour guides personify a specific college campus by learning ridiculous amounts of trivial facts (Oceans Eleven shot in the College of Medicine and some CReps attempted to find Matt Damon’s trailer but were kicked out) and information about the school in order to recite countless details to parents and prospective students to convince them how awesome UCI is. While some may say this line of work becomes biased, the truth is spend any amount of time with these students and it is evident they genuinely love their school. The process to gain the official title of UCI Campus Representative takes a multitude of dedication and time. For example, as the quarter long training session ends, which is taken for course credit, the students take a final exam which MUST be passed with ninety-five percent accuracy.

Justine Oh, a second-year film and media major, cannot emphasize enough how much of an accomplishment this task became. “Not just making amazing friends and making really long-lasting connections with them, but also it was really interesting to know more about the school itself. Just that feeling of presenting your school in the best way possible to these really interested groups of people and getting them to come here and have the same good experience that you have here at Irvine is just really rewarding. I try not to think of it as a job. I like to call it a part-time extracurricular thing.”

Nevertheless, the job consists of being involved with campus tours, college fairs, campus outreach programs such as Celebrate UCI (UCI’s oldest tradition since 1971), and student panels. Each student receives $8.57/hour. Along with campus events, they must lead at least seven Noon or Special Tours, a much bigger group usually of elementary or high school students, each quarter. The application process began toward the end of January.

First step: Fill out the paper application; return it to the Visitor Center; and sign up for an hour long group interview which consists of five applicants and one “veteran” CRep interviewer. Each applicant aims to act confident, friendly, and energetic. The interviewer fills out a form rating each one on his/her confidence, school spirit, strengths, and weaknesses.

Second step: About one week later, each continuing applicant receives an E-mail. This letter permits the approval to remain in the application process and attend one of two receptions: February 12th or February 19th from 6-8 pm. The two hour long reception contains four main activities: an ice breaker/introduction game, an explanation of the reception, a group project, and a final skit. Afterwards, the “veteran” CReps stay for an additional two hours to evaluate the two applicants.

As the prospective “newbies” walk to the Mesa Court Community Center thoughts of anxiety and hope flood their minds. Without being given any information besides the date and place of the reception, the applicants enter blind sighted. To their surprise, the “newbies” receive enthusiastic responses from the “veteran” CReps, who have been at the center for an hour already learning important information about an upcoming Honor’s Day event. Being invited to attend a reception this year marks a great achievement because not everyone was invited as in past years. For the 2010 group of representatives, about 220 applied and attended a group interview. From there, 100 were cut leaving 120 left over. Split that number between the two receptions and sixty undergraduate students were present at each with hopes of being accepted. From that group of 120, only 20 students will be selected to continue into the training session starting this Spring Quarter.

In these training sessions, every Thursday from 4-6pm, the new CReps learn everything from specific majors to how to deal with annoying little kids on tours. In the CRep training binder, Appendix B lists “Tips for Kids Tours, Whaddya do when your tour group is full of kids?” By twisting the information, the CReps are taught to deal with every situation possible (“Call ELF the ‘Titanic’ building”).

Justine shares, “But if they are just middle schoolers, I try to crack a lot of jokes if I can.” She remembers one particular group jumping around cheering at the top of their lungs. “I was like, oh wow, you guys are crazier than we are.” The key remains to keep an atmosphere of curiosity and exciting .

Finally, the twenty new representatives from all different majors and ethnicities leap into the world of campus tours and place themselves on the pedestal of campus pride. Although most “veteran” CReps, who become such a tight-knit group through the training sessions, admit to slightly varying the information they give to each tour depending upon the group and age, Suzanne, a current CRep, knows she still must stick to the script. The goal for the Campus Representative group on the UCI campus is to make the prospective students feel special and accepted.

March 5th, 2010. Today is the day. One hundred and twenty letters will be sent out., yet only twenty applicants await good news. No wonder the group jumps off the walls with such high enthusiasm. To make it to that point where you are able to walk backwards in front of 4-20 individuals spitting out numberless facts and trivia while hoping not to run into a pole or have a faculty member chime in criticism as a smile continues to emerge on your face truly takes the most colorful characters.

Reporting Notes
Lengthy interview with Justine Oh and two other Campus Representatives.
Observed a 1-hour Noon Tour with Jessica Rice.
Observed a 1-hour Special Tour with Jessica and Suzanne.
Searched Facebook as well as YouTube.
Obtained last years training session binder from current Campus Representative containing every fact and location learned.
Obtained a congratulatory letter sent to the “newbies.”
Obtained document “Campus Rep Fall 2009 Updates.”
Obtained past quizzes and exams taken from current Campus Representative.

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