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Tours not limited to students

Justin Tardiff | Monday, November 21, 2005

While many prospective students attend information sessions and explore the University through the Admissions Office, other visitors drawn to Notre Dame’s campus take tours through the Eck Visitors’ Center.

“Notre Dame is a tourist attraction,” said Eck Center tour guide Katy Kemnetz, a junior.

The Eck Center offers tours during the week to a wide array of visitors including University benefactors, football fans and school groups. The center gives free public tours twice a day Monday through Friday, and prescheduled private tours are offered daily for a $25 fee.

Approximately 40 Notre Dame students work as tour guides for the Eck Center. Associate Director Jaime Cripe said that for visitors, “to interact with a student is overwhelmingly meaningful.”

The student tour guides enjoy this interaction as well. Sophomore Clint Cyr has been giving tours since May, and said he enjoys meeting people from across the country and around the world.

“I like the interaction with people of all types and all backgrounds,” he said.

Cripe said since the tours are geared toward visitors rather than prospective students, the content of the tours differs from those of the Admissions Office. The Eck Center’s tours are more historical in nature and provide information about notable figures like Uninversity founder Father Edward Sorin and important events like the 1879 Main Building fire, she said.

Kemnetz, who gives tours for both the Admissions Office and the Eck Center, said that on Eck Center tours she talks less about college life and statistics about the student body.

The tours visit some of the campus’ most illustrious landmarks, including the Main Building, Grotto, Basilica, Hesburgh Library and football stadium. Kemnetz said on Eck Center tours she takes the group into the Basilica, but does not do this for Admissions tours. Pre-designated tours go inside the football stadium during the summer.

Cripe said the center gives about 1,200 tours over the course of a year and many visitors are awestruck by the sites and history of the campus.

“It’s been their lifelong dream to come to Notre Dame,” she said.

Cyr said many people are surprised by how big the campus is despite is relatively small student body.

“A very common reaction is people exclaiming how beautiful this campus is,” he said.

There are perks to giving tours for the Eck Center as well. Kemnetz said although she gets paid the same amount for tours at the Eck Center as at the Admissions Office, she is allowed to keep tips from these tours – tips as high as $78 on a single tour.

Kemnetz said over the summer she gave a tour to two dancers from Riverdance who were visiting South Bend to perform at the Morris Performing Arts Center. After the tour they gave her tickets to the show. Another time, members of a wedding party took a tour with Kemnetz and invited her to join them at the wedding’s reception.

But Kemnetz said she enjoys giving tours for reasons beyond the material benefits. She said she has learned a lot about Notre Dame’s history and she likes seeing how people react to the campus.

“People are awestruck,” she said. “It helps keep your own sense of awe in the University.”