COLUMBIA — Taking a one-hour walk around the MU campus in 90-degree weather isn't the most comfortable thing to do in the throes of summer, but that’s exactly what 450 visitors have done this week.
LeAnn* Stroupe, director of visitor relations at MU, said that the MU Tour Team is doing its best to help prospective students and other visitors stay cool by providing water, staying inside as much as possible and taking it slow.
“We got into more buildings for ‘air conditioning breaks,’ as I call them,” she said.
“We know the quickest ways, and we can get you into those buildings pretty fast,” tour guide Marcus McGuinn said.
“We just take all the necessary precautions — point out water fountains, walk slower, be accommodating of the particular group that we have,” tour guide Victoria* Launder said. “It’s pretty much everything we can do. We can’t change the weather.”
The MU Office of Visitor Relations offers two tours a day, one at 10:45 a.m. and another at 1:45 p.m.
Launder said morning tours, which end around lunch time, feel hotter. Fortunately, there’s more shade in the morning, she said.
“Afternoon tours are the worst for me,” McGuinn said. “It’s nap time and people have either just eaten lunch or are about to. They don’t really want to be outside.”
Regardless of the time, summer walking tours aren’t the most comfortable experience.
On Wednesday, Launder gave her second tour of the week to two families. The senior communications major was hired as a tour guide this spring.
“It’s hot, but today was better (than a tour earlier this week). The rain helped,” she said. “I don’t really notice (the heat) because I’m so busy talking, but I can tell by looking at the people in my group.”
Molly Totten will be a senior at Rock Bridge High School in the fall. Even though she lives in Columbia and could have taken an MU tour at any time, she chose Wednesday because it worked best with her schedule.
“Last week when I planned my tour, I didn’t really think it was going to be this hot because it was rainy and cooler,” she said.
Launder said that her groups tend to be engaged despite the heat, but that she has talked to other guides with different situations.
McGuinn, a four-year Tour Team member, is one such guide.
“The heat has drained the energy right out of the people, and sometimes it’s hard to keep them motivated,” McGuinn said. “I wouldn’t say they’re more irritable (than normal), but they’re definitely more anxious to be done.”
McGuinn, an MU graduate student, said he tries to keep visitors interested by trimming tours down to what visitors need to know most.
“The people are already physically fatigued, so I try not to mentally fatigue them. I don’t want to overload their brains,” he said.
McGuinn said the weather during a student’s visit is definitely a psychological factor when they decide which school to attend.
“As a guide you can see when you’ve lost them. You try to kick it up and get them back, but some days you just feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, and you can tell it’s not going to be a gold-ticket day,” he said.
While heat or cold might not be the factor in determining schools, McGuinn said it subconsciously taints a visit.
“They’ll go home and someone will ask, ‘Oh, how was your trip to Mizzou?’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, it was OK. It was kind of rainy and campus was gloomy because the sun wasn’t shining,’” he said.
The same applies to the heat, he said.
Totten said the weather wouldn’t affect her college decision.
“It actually made the pools (at the MU recreation complex) look more appealing,” she said.
Tour guides go through an emergency training in the fall to help them deal with sudden storms, injuries, people fainting on tours and other incidents.
“I’ve been in this office for 16 years, and I do not ever remember having a heat-related incident,” Stroupe said.
McGuinn said sometimes visitors get lightheaded from the heat.
“It usually happens when we go up stairs and it’s hot and people might not be in the best shape, so they just need to sit down and have some water,” he said.
Fortunately visitor relations provides chilled bottled water on hot days.
Wednesday’s heat might be beneficial in one way, though, for students like Totten.
“She’s going to Houston next week to look at a school,” Totten’s mother, Gayla, said.
“We’re getting prepared for the heat there,” Totten said.