The ‘superheroes’ leading Mason’s tour experience

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Tour season is year-round at George Mason University, with sessions offered Monday through Saturday, twice a day, every week. The people that help make this happen are the Mason Ambassadors: Mason’s student-volunteer tour guides.

three students in green shirts outside
Mason Ambassadors. Photo by Cristian Torres/Strategic Communications

“The Ambassadors are like mini superheroes,” said Carla Goodwin, assistant director of undergraduate admissions and advisor to Mason Ambassadors.

In addition to leading tours for prospective students, visitors, and new Mason employees, Ambassadors participate in and represent Mason’s student population at admission events, student panels, webinars, and photoshoots. 

“What's unique about these tours given by current students is that they provide that sentimental and emotional piece about Mason,” Goodwin said. “It’s nice to see what Mason really means to the current students and how it makes a difference for them.”

For Sam Harrison, Mason Ambassadors president and a senior majoring in community health, “college was all about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she said. “In high school, I had a big fear of public speaking, so I joined Mason Ambassadors in 2019 to really improve my communication and interpersonal skills.”

Mason student giving a tour
Mason Ambassador Mario Belenfante joined the team as a way to get involved and make connections. Photo by Cristian Torres/Strategic Communications

Ambassadors undergo an application and interview process. Upon acceptance, they go through training, including workshops with offices such as Career Services and Student Success Coaching for individualized academic and professional development.

Every spring, Goodwin said she teaches a one-credit course, called “UNIV 333: Peer Leadership—Mason Ambassadors,” to help Ambassadors get acquainted with various student support services, such as the LGBTQ+ Resources Center and the Office of International Programs and Services.

The training has practical applications for the Ambassadors as well.

Navigating Mason’s various resources and large campus can be overwhelming, Harrison said. And the training makes one comfortable with accessing Mason’s numerous offices and sharing that important information on the tours.

Mario Belenfante, vice president of visits for Mason Ambassadors, said he joined the team as a way to get involved, make connections, and build valuable experience for his communication major.

“I always tell people at the end of my tours that I hope I can make Mason feel like an inclusive, safe place and make Mason feel like home for them,” said Belenfante, who led 78 tours in the Spring 2022 semester.

“Seeing the students that I've given tours to end up at Mason just makes what I'm doing 10 times better,” he said.

Tours are ever-changing, as the Ambassadors work to tailor the experience to students with different interests and as new features are added to the Fairfax Campus.

On-campus visits consist of a 30-minute information session with an admissions staff member, followed by an Ambassador-led campus tour or a self-guided walking tour.

Mason also offers virtual options, including virtual information sessions hosted by an admissions counselor, virtual guided tours led by Mason Ambassadors, and an independent virtual tour that’s accessible any time on the university website.

These virtual options remain important, Goodwin said, as they make tours accessible to underrepresented students and those that may not have the financial means to travel or take time off work.

Due to rising interest in on-campus visits, Goodwin said the goal is to recruit 100 new Mason Ambassadors during this semester.

Students can apply here by September 24.