KINGSTON, R.I. – July 21, 2016 – One of the skills a University of Rhode Island tour guide has to master is walking backward while imparting detailed information about the institution in a lively and fun way to prospective students and their parents. That includes skillfully dodging bushes, light poles, other people and buildings.
Now, three tour guides, Kinte Howie of Providence, Olivia Hallam of Cumberland and Nicole Cloutier of Warren, can add another skill to their resumes — being able to give a tour while riding bicycles around the Kingston Campus.
They did that Thursday for six guidance counselors from public and private schools and private consulting groups who for more than eight years have been combining a week-long cycling tour in different regions of the country with visits to college campuses. They started in Connecticut, visited URI, and then were on their way to Salve Regina University and then institutions in Providence.
The group, called “Tour D’Admission,” started informally with just a few riders for the first two to three years, but has been growing strongly since 2009. This was the cyclists’ first trip to URI. They started their day enjoying lunch at Hope Commons while meeting with URI Admission Dean Cynthia Bonn, other staff members and their tour guides. Then it was onto the bikes and stops at the Fascitelli Fitness and Wellness Center, the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences, the College of Pharmacy and the quadrangle. At the stops, everyone dismounted to listen to the tour guides, but along the way, Howie, Hallam and Cloutier chatted alongside the cyclists, while pointing out certain aspects of the campus. Howie faced the riders behind him to keep the cyclists informed on what they were seeing. None of this occurred on busy roadways, but on the wide walkways around campus.
One of the cyclists, Richard Johnson, a guidance counselor at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut, said he visited URI about 30 years ago to see a friend. He was on his eighth college bicycle tour today.
“The growth here is remarkable,” said Johnson. “I am much more likely to recommend URI to my students now after seeing the campus.”
While impressed with the beauty of the campus and its facilities, he was more impressed by the welcome he received. “Two weeks ago when I came to the Visitors Center to scout a bike route, I saw Olivia (Hallam), and she could not have been more excited. She beamed and said, ‘Wow, you are the bike group coming to campus.’ Her reaction made me more excited and I felt a much greater sense of anticipation than I normally would have. When I arrived here today, Olivia recognized me immediately.”
Jane Klemmer, who was doing her sixth college bike tour, said her nephew Ray Klemmer earned a degree in film studies at URI.
“I was here a long time ago,” said Klemmer, owner of Klemmer Educational Consulting. “I am so pleased that you have retained the beauty of the old, traditional campus while adding beautiful, contemporary buildings. Plus, I had three great tour guides, who not only gave us a great tour, but also cycled with us. What wonderful hospitality they provided.”
And how about this for hospitality? When Klemmer was riding in from Connecticut along with Bo Gillie, URI’s international admission advisor, and the rest of the group, one of her tires had a blowout. So right after lunch, Gillie drove into Wakefield to pick up a new tire for her from Stedman’s Bicycle Co.
Sarah McDougal, chair of the Department of Guidance at Fenton High School in Bensenville, Ill., said her high school serves many young people who will be the first to attend college in their families. “They can’t get to campuses, so this is a way for me to see schools firsthand and then return with good information about the schools. You get the college experience while riding with great friends and you go through so many cute little towns along the way.”
Tim Clark, an independent counselor with McMillan Education in Boston, said this tour was his second.
“This is a great networking opportunity,” he said. “And when we return to work with students, we can tell them that they are able to combine work with things you choose to do and enjoy in life, like cycling.”
By the end of the tour, the group, which also included Bill Dingledene, an independent counselor with Educational Directions in Greenville, S.C., and Paul MacKenzie, a guidance counselor at the Berkshire School, a day and boarding school in Sheffield, Mass., will have also visited Trinity College, where it began, Wesleyan University, Quinnipiac University, Yale University, Connecticut College, Providence College, Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Connecticut.
“We really like that URI gave us a bike tour, which showed that they really appreciate what we do on this tour,” Dingledene said.
And what about the URI tour guides? What did they think?
Howie, a sophomore studying general business administration, said he is very comfortable on a bike and turning to face the other riders was easy for him. “I have been hearing about this kind of a tour for a while and I though it would be fun to do.”
Amidst all of the high-tech road bicycles, Cloutier, a sophomore majoring in psychology with a cognitive/neuroscience track and a minor in nonviolence & peace studies, was riding a retro, single-speed, coaster-brake bike, which she said was a Christmas gift from her parents 10 years ago.
”I love it and I keep it here on campus to ride to classes,” Cloutier said. “I loved doing this tour today, but I wish we had more time because it would have been fun to ride to all corners of campus. I love this University so much. It was my top choice.”
Hallam, a senior majoring in Chinese and political science with a minor in international relations, said her excitement started building as soon as she met Jackson a few weeks ago in the Visitors Center.
“The summer tour guides have that added oomph because we are so committed to this school,” Hallam said. “Hospitality is central to our motto, Think Big. We Do.”