Every prospective UR student who goes on a campus tour is amazed by the backward-walking, information-filled tour guides that introduce them to the University. But where do these exceptionally coordinated people come from? The answer is simple. They are a part of UR’s Meridian Society.
“Tour guides at the U of R tend to be different, exceptional, and more motivated,” junior Meridian Fukumi Orikasa explained. “We are different from other tour guides.”
Meridians are a group of qualified students hired by the admissions office to lead campus tours, answer the phone in admissions, and work the front desk in Wallace Hall. According to Orikasa, each Meridian must go through a highly selective application and training process before they can lead tours. “The amount of work it takes is definitely underestimated,” she said. “It’s not the most difficult task in the world, but it takes solid social skills, the ability to improvise, and quick thinking.”
There are two types of Meridians: Standard Meridians and Engineering Meridians. Standard Meridians are a diverse group of students that come from all departments, able to share their distinct perspective on different majors and student activities. The Engeineering Meridian position, however, is reserved for engineering students who can best represent the engineering department and answer specific questions posed by prospective students looking to major in engineering.
Each of the two types of Meridians has a slightly different application process. New Engineering Meridians typically apply in the fall and begin working
in the spring after fall training. Their application process includes writing an essay and participating in a one-on-one interview with admissions counselor Michael Shae.
Alternatively, Standard Meridians undergo an equally strenuous three-tier application process: written application, interview, and presentation. Standard Meridian applications include several short answer questions. Those selected to move on then participate in a group interview rather than a personal one. The third tier is the most difficult as applicants are required to give a presentation incorporating a personal story and information about the school in front of veteran Meridians, admission counselors, and their fellow applicants.
Students that successfully make it through the application process start their training by shadowing veteran Meridians on their tours. “After shadowing quite a few veterans, the new Meridian co-leads a tour with an experienced Meridian,” new sophomore Engineering Meridian Yuting Yang described. “They switch off, informing the prospective students about buildings on campus. The new Meridians are evaluated on their performance and, once they pass, are allowed to begin leading their own tours.”
You would think the training would stop there, but not quite: it is a continuous process. Once a week, throughout the beginning of the spring semester, Meridians meet to learn more about certain parts of the school from the people who work there. “Meridians are always learning new things about the school that we can include when leading tours or when we are asked questions about the school,” Yang explained.
According to Assistant Director of Admissions Andre McKenzie, the main stops on a typical tour are Rush Rhees, the Residence Halls, Goergen Athletic Center, and Wilson Commons.
“Sometimes they will talk about how the Goergen Athletic Center is the size of a whole city block… [or] that the flags in Hirst Lounge represent the nationalities of all the students on campus,” sophomore meridian Julia Kent recounted. She is currently going through the training process and notes that each Meridian puts their own flare on tours, some more funny and some more serious.
All Meridians, however, enrich their tours for prospective students by including stories about their own experiences at UR. This allows them to educate visiting students on the inner workings of campus (the Take Five Program, RAs, D’Lions, campus life, Freshman Fellows, etc.) in an interesting way.
When a student is asked why they decided to become a Meridian, the answer is always along the same vein. “I chose to apply to the Meridian Society because my tour guide on my Prospective Student’s Day visit had a huge impact on my coming here,” junior meridian Alyssa Arre said. “I wanted to give that same experience to future prospective students.”
The Meridians work hard to make sure that prospective students get to see exactly what UR has to offer. Meridians, like Arre, try to show why UR was a good match for them and why it might be a good match for prospective students.
High schoolers typically visit many colleges in their quest to find the perfect school, and UR Meridians aim to make an impression and help UR stand out. It takes a lot of work to be a backward-walking, smart-talking member of the Meridian Society, but a select group of students manage it, and manage it well.
Kluzniak is a member of the class of 2017.