With spring slowly making its way into Bellingham, the nicer weather brings bees, sunbathers and constant activity on Western’s campus. At the same time, the prospective student tours of Western begin to have a bigger presence. Western’s Student Admissions Representatives program, also known as StARS, lead these tours and know the the ins-and-outs of the university.

“We are the ambassadors of the admissions office,” said Evan Wood, Western senior and S.T.A.R.

The S.T.A.R.s is comprised of Western students who represent the university to prospective students, whether they are at the freshman level, transfer students from another university or transfer students from a community college, said Keli Van Holde, S.T.A.R. program manager.

Van Holde, who is in her fourth year with the S.T.A.R. program, helps coordinate the schedules of the student staff in conjunction with the tour schedules, puts together front desk schedules and helps the student events coordinator with large events.

Whenever the student events coordinator needs student support, she makes sure it happens, Van Holde said.

“I try to stay involved on that level as well because it’s important that everyone in all levels tries to keep up to date with all the information because it’s constantly changing,” Van Holde said. “I try to sign up for at least a couple of tours per quarter.”

Working the front desk a few hours every week during the quarter helps Van Holde stay up to date on these policies, old and new, as well as stay in touch with the student employees.

During spring quarter, a lot of her work entails helping the new student employees. In preparation for the 10 to 13 seniors that graduate each spring, the S.T.A.R program hires students to take the vacant spots, Van Holde said. Right now, there are between 40 and 45 student employees, but in the fall, the group will shrink to about 30.

The main theme of the tours is to engage relations with prospective students and give them a feel for whether Western is the right school for them, said Wood, who is in his second year as a S.T.A.R.

“When you think about it, you think students are interested in academics but realistically they’re more interested in what it would be like to live at Western, so we try to show that as best as possible,” Wood said.

The S.T.A.R. program gives a variety of tours, but their two main ones are the regular campus tour and Discovery Days/Discover Western.

The regular campus tour happens twice every week day of the quarter, with a few holiday exceptions, at 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. The Discovery Days/Discover Western tours include a student panel with faculty and admissions staff that gives prospective students a different look at Western as well as the campus tour, Van Holde said. 

Comprised of students from all different majors and with all different interests, the S.T.A.R. program is an opportunity for students to involve themselves in Western’s campus and show what Western is all about to prospective students.

“We really encourage all students to apply [for the program] just because we want to have a variety of backgrounds and experiences so that we can really create a full program that’s going to be able to reach out to tons of different audiences – that’s really important to us,” Van Holde said. “We try to incorporate as much diversity as we can into the program.”

The program typically hires around spring break of the school year so the new S.T.A.Rs will be ready to start in the fall.

There is a class and lab aspect to the S.T.A.R. training, Wood said. The new hires take a class and shadow on tours to get a feel for how it works. When a S.T.A.R. is brought on to shadow a tour group, they become a S.T.A.R. baby to the two tour guides – the S.T.A.R. parents.

“You get to know your baby really well and get to refer to them as your kid for the rest of their time in the program,” Wood said.
Giving the campus tours can sometimes put the S.T.A.Rs in awkward positions, but there comes a point where they can answer any question with ease.

“You get funny questions sometimes, and sometimes you get more challenging questions,” Wood said. “Like if a mom asks, ‘what’s the party scene like at Western?’ and you’re like ‘well of course we have parties, but it’s easy to avoid them.’ You get good at answering those difficult questions.” At Western, many students have gone on the campus tours led by S.T.A.R.s before attending the university. Sometimes, Wood is recognized on campus because he was someone’s tour guide and they ended up going to Western.

“Sometimes people who I gave tours to will see me around campus and they say, ‘hey, you were my tour guide!’” Wood said. “Seeing people the next year is pretty satisfying.”