ARC puts pedal to the metal for 1st Drive Tour

A visitor picks up a pamphlet from student worker Alexa Kowalski on Saturday before starting on the 30-minute GCU Drive Tour, an audio tour featuring nine stops on campus. (Photo by Brian Roth)

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Student workers Nicholas Conger and Alexa Kowalski get ready for the tour. Organizers were expecting a little more than 200 vehicles, which were registered for the event. (Photo by Brian Roth)

It wasn’t so much an apple-for-the-teacher event on Saturday as it was a see-the-campus-in-your-Acura-before-the-teacher-heads-back-to-campus scenario at the first Grand Canyon University Drive Tour.

It was when future students, potential future students and their families could visit the campus by plane, train or automobile -- well, not by plane or train but by automobile, at least -- and learn neat facts, such as:

  • The University is nestled on a 250-acre campus;
  • Last year, 20,384 ground students attended GCU;
  • The average incoming campus student GPA was 3.5 in fall 2019;
  • More than 2,000 student workers help move the wheels here at GCU, as of July 2019;
  • And, of course, GCU has a Taco Bell -- and a couple of Chick-fil-A's.

Here are a few facts, too, about Saturday’s drive-thru tours: 202 vehicles were registered for the event by 137 different families.

It was the first time GCU families had the option to view the campus from the comfort of their cars.

Keaton Edwards (left), GCU Live Manager, speaks to families on a traditional walking tour of campus in 2017.

“We got the idea from the Phoenix Zoo,” said Keaton Edwards, who manages GCU Live, the group in the Antelope Reception Center responsible for live-streaming campus virtual tours to students who can’t make it to campus.

The zoo had come up with an ingenious idea -- Cruise the Zoo, which enables the public to visit the facility AND be socially distant in this era of COVID-19. Visitors were invited in May to drive through the trails of the zoo, which had been closed since March 18.

Cruise the Zoo was a hit, as was the GCU Drive Tour.

“We try to keep things fun, and with everything going on – everything is so limited – it’s just a fun change to allow people to get out of the house, be socially distant and be in air conditioning,” Edwards said.

The approximately 30-minute audio tour, which started at the 35th Avenue entrance near the Halo and Grove parking garages, included nine stops. Cars wound around Canyon Hall and the Student Union, down Lopes Way and past the residence halls and the Colangelo College of Business before ending at the 29th Avenue parking garage.

More than 135 families signed up to drive through campus on Saturday for the first GCU Drive Tour.

Families received a tour pamphlet and scanned in a QR code to hear the audio. They learned about 50-cent bowling in Thunderground, various ministries (such as a skateboarding ministry) and the Nerd Herd, which offers free IT help for students on the second floor of the Student Union. They also had a chance on the tour to speak briefly with student workers or stop by a GCBC tent to grab a Stampede energy drink or other beverage.

Michele Gama of Phoenix decided to load up in the family Honda Fit with daughter Sarah and head to campus for the Drive Tour. Sarah will be starting classes at GCU in the fall as an elementary education major.

“I think the drive-thru tour is great,” Michele said. “It’s a good way to get around what's going on (with coronavirus).”

Sarah said her sister attends GCU, so she is somewhat familiar with the campus. But she never paid close attention before now. “I just wanted to see where everything is,” she said.

Unlike Sarah, who has decided on GCU as her college, Danajia Enriquez, who is from North Carolina, still has a lot to consider. She will be a high school senior this fall and has not decided on a university.

“I see that they have a nice nursing program,” Enriquez said as she drove through the campus with her uncle, Anthony Enriquez, who lives in Phoenix. Danajia is considering being a nurse at a time when nurses are so desperately needed.

John Brenes, who will start GCU's Sports Management program in the fall, drove in with his family from Yuma to take the tour, then dropped into the ARC afterward to pick up more information.

Families had the option of driving through campus or taking a traditional walking tour on Saturday. (Photo by Brian Roth)

“We just wanted to support him and learn about what the environment is going to be for him,” said his mom, Nancy

Boysie Jones, a high school senior, wants to go to a Christian university and is considering GCU. The GCU Drive Tour just might help bring him closer to a decision.

“I don’t know about the driver,” said Boysie’s dad, Michael, as he glanced at his wife with a smile. “But the tour is going OK.”

Edwards said the drive-thru tour is “a very simple idea with a lot of great people involved.” To pull it off, he added, it took the work of the Antelope Reception Center as well as members of the Public Safety and the Events teams, which always do “an amazing job.”

The drive-thru tour wasn’t the only tour on campus Saturday, which is usually the busiest day for the ARC.

Edwards said on weekdays, 10 to 12 families a day will visit the ARC with six to 10 of them going on tours. About 40 families visit the center on the weekends, and around half of them take a tour.

“So we’re still doing traditional (walk-on-campus) tours, the GCU Live tours and now the Drive Tours,” he said.

Those drive-thru tours are one more way to share the campus with families who just may become future Lopes families.

GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


Related content:

GCU Today: Can't visit campus in person? Just visit GCU Live

GCU Today: SAS Building creates new arc for Student Services


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