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Giving Visitors a Warm Welcome

by Sunny Merik, Public Affairs
posted July 15, 1998

Visitor Services is to Berkeley what a welcome mat is to home. Located in 101 University Hall, Visitor Services is often the first place people go to learn about the campus.

The staff of three, augmented by 20-60 student employees, answers telephones, welcomes visitors, hands out brochures and campus maps, and guides campus tours.

During campus tours they also share interesting campus information. For example, did you know that Berkeley's central campus covers 178 acres? Or that the eucalyptus grove near Strawberry Creek is the tallest stand of eucalyptus in the world? Or that Ludwig's Fountain in Sproul Plaza is named after a dog? Visitor Services staff know these and scores of other interesting facts about the campus.

The volume of information dispensed through the office is impressive. During last March alone, Visitor Services answered more than 2,100 telephone inquiries, welcomed more than 450 drop-in visitors, and conducted campus tours for another 2,000.

"And March is by no means our busiest month," said Lani Shepp, Visitor Services director. "In April, we gave tours to more than 5,000 in addition to all the Cal Day work. April's the month students receive their acceptance letters and come by to check out the campus."

Visitor Services tour guides conduct customized tours depending on the interests of the visitor. "We have a business school tour, an engineering tour, a social sciences tour, a tour for the disabled, a bear theme tour that shows people bear sculptures throughout campus," said Shepp.

General campus tours -- open to faculty and staff as well as others -- leave at 10 a.m. every weekday from Visitor Services. There are also noon-hour tours for faculty and staff on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, Shepp said. To reserve a space on one of the noon golf cart tours, call 642-5215.

Nigel Wheeler, a junior mass communications/Spanish major, is a tour guide. "I've always loved interacting with people and am very interested in campus history, so being a tour guide was a natural for me," he said. "As a guide I get to combine my communication skills and my interest in history."

In addition to tours, Visitors Services, which is a department of Public Affairs, also organizes Cal Day and staffs the Campanile.

"We want departments to know that we're here to serve them. If they need tours, we have trained guides," Shepp said. "If they have brochures with information they'd like the general public to know, we can distribute them."

Begun in 1971 as an information desk in the student union, Berkeley's Visitor Services has developed into a warm and welcoming "front door" to campus.

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