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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Hawks host tours amidst pandemic

Ally Anthony ’22 gives Marilynn Kozy, a prospective student from Drexel Hill, PA, a tour of St. Joe’s campus. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it was common to see tour guides from the Office of Undergraduate Admission leading large groups of prospective students and their parents around campus. 

Now, because of COVID-19 restrictions, Hawk Hosts and Hawk Ambassadors, the university’s official student tour guides, are leading one or two families at a time. And that is resulting in a more personalized tour.

Nicolette Mortelliti, who plans to begin her college career at St. Joe’s in the fall, said having a small group definitely made a difference in her tour experience.

“The smaller group made the tour more personal, which is something I liked,” said Mortelliti, who visited campus last August with her mom.

Hawk Host Abby Varker ’22 said because the groups she leads are smaller, she makes better connections with families.

“I’ve had people tell me that my tours are something that pushed them to either apply or commit or seriously look at St. Joe’s,” Varker said. “Making those one-on-one connections is actually a benefit of the pandemic on touring.”

Admissions began advertising for a new category of tour guides earlier this semester. Hawk Hosts, the traditional name for the guides, run tours during the week and on weekends. Hawk Ambassadors, the new group, are specifically designated for weekend tours, according to Maureen Mathis, director of undergraduate admission.

“Because of the limit to how many tours a Hawk Host could give, we needed more people to give tours for the amount of families that wanted to visit campus,” Mathis said.  

Mathis said 80 families can be accommodated for tours on a Saturday or Sunday. During the week, tours are spread out. For example, Mathis said 95 tours were given Monday through Friday during the week of March 15.  

There are currently 28 Hawk Ambassadors and around 65 Hawk Hosts. The number of Hawk Hosts is similar to past years, Mathis said. 

Mathis said Admissions also added tour guides because some tour guides were uncomfortable with the risks of interacting with prospective students and their families. Other guides have had to call out due to quarantine and isolation.

“The number changes each week, depending upon COVID outbreak,” Mathis said. “If someone is in contact with or contracts COVID, then they are out for two weeks.”

Mathis said she is grateful to the guides for working, despite any challenges.

“They are on the front lines helping with the recruitment of future freshmen and transfers to the university,” Mathis said. 

Shane Patil ’22, a Hawk Host and special events director on the executive board of the Hawk Host Organization, said with smaller tours, families are able to engage more with their hosts and get all of their pandemic and nonpandemic related questions answered. 

“Doing these one-on-one tours, you get to actually answer real questions with them rather than these superficial college-based questions that you would have with 10-family tours,” Patil said. 

That is what Mortelliti experienced when she was on her campus tour.  

“I was able to get all of my questions answered as well as get to know the person who gave me the tour,” Mortelliti said.

Hawk Host Lexi Mignogna ’21 said one of the most common questions she gets is about online classes. 

“The biggest question would be, ‘If my child is going to be in person versus online’ because it’s hard for parents sometimes to make a very big investment to come to a private university if they think that their student is going to be online for all four years,” Mignogna said. 

In addition to smaller in-person tours, Admissions also hosts other group events, including “Senior Saturdays,” a day designated to admitted students where they can have a masked, distanced visit while also getting a feel for being in a college classroom. 

“We’ve done four of them, and they are getting a presentation, so they’re getting an educational experience, meaning they’re in one of our classroom spaces, so they’re all at desks, they’re six feet apart,” Mathis said. 

In-person tours do not include the typical large-group presentations from Admission staff. Those presentations are virtual and prospective students have the option to do virtual tours as well. 

Virtual tours are given by a Hawk Host through the St. Joe’s virtual tour website, and students are able to see everything on campus from an overhead view. Virtual tours are also accompanied by interactive videos. 

Mignogna said doing more virtual tours has been “a blessing in disguise” because there is a greater range of students whom the tour guides can connect with.

“We find that we can also reach students who might live across the country,” Mignogna said. “They don’t want to come all the way out to St. Joe’s for a weekend, if they live really far away, whether it be due to expenses or scheduling.” 

Patil said pandemic or not, he loves being able to make a difference on prospective students and their perception of college.

“That has definitely been my favorite part, getting to show these families truly what St. Joe’s is about,” Patil said.

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