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Tours give graduating seniors opportunity to ‘say goodbye’ to campus

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The end of the school year is near and for many graduating students, that means job interviews, last hurrahs with friends, senioritis and for some, exclusive tours of the university.

The tours are part of Commencement Week, which offers activities and events to celebrate graduates’ accomplishments and started four years ago. The week has expanded ever since.

“We started it because as an institution, Ohio State does a really good job of saying hello,” said Matt Couch, senior assistant director at the Ohio Union and director of orientation for student life. “We didn’t do nearly as well saying goodbye.”

This year, among the many activities that kick off next Monday, students are able to take a “Things You Never Got to See Tour.”

“It’s a good occasion to bring some awareness to the hidden gems and landmarks not everyone hears about on a campus tour,” Couch said.

Stops on these tours, which are open to everyone, include access to the Orton Bell Tower, the underground steam tunnels, the Adler Planetarium, Ohio Stadium and more.

Students also can enter to win exclusive helicopter tours of OSU and also of President E. Gordon Gee’s office.

Undergraduate, graduate and professional students graduating any quarter of the 2010-2011 academic year are eligible to enter, according to the Commencement Week website.

Students can receive additional entries to the contest if they submit up to five photos representing their time at OSU. Photos will be shown in a slideshow during the Commencement Eve Candlelight Ceremony on June 11.

Both of these exclusive senior sweepstakes have been offered in previous years, but this year the Commencement Week committee is offering more flights and accommodating more students, Couch said.

In past years, students have also been able to enter to win hard-hat tours of the Union and of William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library before they were opened.

Couch said that as those opportunities arise, they like to work them into the schedule.

“We’ve had such a great response to the aerial tours and Dr. Gee’s office that we chose to focus on those this year,” he said.

About 800 graduating students entered the contest last year. He said they expect even more this year.

Emily Owens, a graduate student in early childhood education, recently entered the contest for the exclusive tours.

“Why not? It would be really cool to win,” Owens said. “It would be a great way to finish my time here at OSU.”

Ten students will be chosen for the helicopter tours, which will be given on June 9. Each student can bring two guests.

Three students will also be chosen for tours of Gee’s office Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of finals week, depending on his availability. Each will be allowed about seven guests, Couch said.

“We have an ulterior motive for these tours as well,” Couch said. “It’s a cool opportunity for a limited number of students, but it is kind of a marketing strategy to bring some attention to the other Commencement Week events.”

Other events throughout the week, funded by the student activity fee, include Graduation Cap Decoration Night, the Time and Change Tailgate and the Commencement Eve Candlelight Ceremony.

Keshia Woodall, a fourth-year in middle childhood education and student co-chair of Commencement Week, said since she is graduating this quarter, it is like she is planning her own party.

She said she believes Commencement Eve Ceremony is students’ favorite activity throughout the week.

“This event gives students an opportunity to fellowship one last time before commencement,” Woodall said.

New this year, students have the option to tweet the hashtag #OSUGrad11 or text @wif60500 + their message to 87884 to submit parting messages. These messages will appear throughout the Union, Woodall said.

Most Commencement Week events, although primarily for graduating students, are open to all undergraduates as well.

The exclusive tours contest is the only program that is restricted to graduating students.

Couch said they encourage undergrads to participate in the various events and to begin to anticipate it for when they are graduating.

“It just happens to fall at a time when a lot of students that aren’t graduating aren’t on campus,” Couch said.

Commencement Week is currently only at the end of Spring Quarter because that is when the majority of students are graduating, Couch said. He said it is still a young program and there is a possibility of it being offered for fall graduations after switch to semesters occurs.

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