Seeing Colleges Through the Vantage of a Visitor

It never gets old. Regardless of how many campuses I’ve visited, and whether for the first time or the thirteenth, these adventures do not disappoint. Don’t ask me to choose a favorite though, or even the top ten. They are all my favorites. What’s not to like? We get to meet smart and engaged people, observe campus customs and the latest student trends, appreciate the architecture and landscape. This vantage of the visitor helps to keep our ideas fresh.

As a campus communications professional, when was the last time you took a step back or found new perspective about the institution you represent? Try to put yourself in the position of visitor. Get out and explore, at different times of day or evening, parts of the campus or neighborhood new to you. In most parts of the country, the weather is now calling us outside and campuses are looking great during commencement season. Schedule too packed with meetings? Hold one or two outside, in a new spot or during a walk to a new location.

One wise university communications professional we know makes time to accompany visitors around campus on occasion, as host or an observer. Take note of what others notice. What are their questions? Share visitors’ feedback with your colleagues, both negative and positive reactions you observe. Could visitors see – and better still, did they repeat – what you’ve been trying to communicate about your institution? They may comment on things that have become less obvious to you, such as building maintenance or where the students are gathering and which are the most popular courses and activities. They may be curious about what is going on these days inside the library that does not resemble what one may think of a library.

Early morning runs, walks, rides or other athletic pursuits are my own favorite methods of exploration. You’re bound to meet someone who stays mostly behind the scenes yet is integral to the success of the college or university. Bonus: You get the most smiles returned in the morning. Maybe it’s the sense of possibility. Never stop exploring.