Across Indiana Avenue and to the left of Franklin Hall, there’s a small, maybe lesser-known office called the Visitor Information Center at IU-Bloomington. Its staff gets asked all kinds of questions from all types of people — sometimes it even gets asked where to buy a prom dress. The IDS sat down with the director at the center and some of the students who work there and asked them about the place and their experience there.
Do you think a lot of people know about this place? I feel like I’ve walked past here and never really came in or known what it is.
Nicole Griffin, director — I think some people know about it. I think at times there’s definitely some confusion as to where it is and maybe what all we offer. I think a lot of times when you think of a visitor’s center, you think of a place for visitors. I think because we are a visitors and information center, obviously we’re here for visitors but we also have additional information. So I think what we try to do is make sure people understand that yes, there might be visitor in the name of our office, but it doesn’t mean that people can’t come even when they’ve moved past the stage of being a visitor.
Do people often come in who aren’t visitors? What kinds of things will they ask about?
Collin Pellettieri, junior studying economics — They’ll ask where certain things are on campus. Every once in awhile I’ll get a question about, like, where’s the best place to park for free. I tell them that there’s not really much to park for free on campus. There’s this one small spot that I located by Smallwood that’s hidden. That’s the only free parking place on campus without a permit required. It’s super hidden, it’s kind of a sketchy lot. I called to make sure, and they were like, ‘yeah, it’s fine to park there.’
Griffin — We also have a lot of returning alums who will stop in because they need to get the lay of the land, because, you know, obviously if you haven’t been here for 20-30 years, things have changed. We get a lot of random questions as well. I know we had a time where someone came in looking for a prom dress, and it was really quite amusing because the student working hadn’t had to buy a prom dress so he suggested Target.
Do you guys give tours, too?
Jessica Eilks, senior studying finance and operations management — Usually at least two a week if not more. It’s dependent upon if we have special tours. But we give an international scholars tour and we give a prospective student tour at least every week, almost.
Griffin — I would say as far as tours, one of the thing that makes us different from the office of admissions is that our tour that we give on Sundays, which is a traditional campus tour, is open to prospective students, undergraduate students, but it’s also open to anyone else. We also do a lot of tours for middle school students. We have a scavenger hunt for elementary school students. The nice thing about having the variety of students that we have is that they are able to cater the tours to different audiences. We even did some tours this past fall for Themester. It focused on the theme, which was beauty. We have a golf cart we can use for VIP tours or people who are experiencing physical challenges
What are your favorite places to show people on your tours?
Joe Glauber, sophomore studying media advertising — I’d say the new Franklin Hall because I’m a media student here and it’s brand new.
Kaleigh Howland, sophomore studying journalism and theater and drama — I love the arts circle, like the fountain and everything in that area. I think it’s really indicative of IU’s campus and how busy it is but also how serene the fountain is.
Do you guys have any funny stories from tours or anything?
Eilks — I would definitely say that a lot of funny stories come out of the international scholars tour, just because there’s a lot of cultural differences. I know for a fact I have a ton of selfies with random tourists and scholars. I’ve had people ask me what rain boots are and why you need them.
Griffin — We had a group of students who had not seen squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. It was really funny because on the spot, [a tour guide] was able to describe and explain the different attributes of these animals, but quickly and clearly.
Do you have any fun facts about IU that you like to tell people?
Joe Glauber, sophomore studying media advertising - The chemistry building, how each window is dedicated to a different element of the periodic table. That’s always a good one.
Is there anything that people are ever really surprised about?
Shassberger — How much green space there is and how pretty the campus is. I’ve only been on three tours, but I feel like every time, somebody has pointed out the other campuses they’ve been to, they just haven’t looked as beautiful as ours.
Eilks — Or how big it is too. Especially because as a senior, I’ve become accustomed to how big it is, but then I remember back to when I was in high school and saw the campus and the classrooms, and I thought, ‘oh my God, this is huge, I’m gonna get so lost.’