Thousands of high school students and their family members will descend on Georgia State University during the first full week of April, taking advantage of their spring break to see the campus where they might enroll.
The face of the university belongs to their tour guide, who will calm their fears, answer their questions and get them excited about higher education. With all this at stake, GSU tour guide Colton Brown is ready.
Brown, 21, remembers how that first campus tour persuaded him that GSU was a multidimensional, accepting place where he could serve others and be “the person I was instead of the person I thought I needed to be to fit in.” He recalls how a second tour, five months later, helped his mom see how he could leave their hometown of Commerce, Ga., where four generations of Browns had put down roots.
“The fact that GSU wasn’t so homogeneous really drew me in,” he said. “I had plenty of friends in high school, but I was always a little different – not a big country boy. I saw different people and knew I didn’t have to be like everyone else to get by, and that really helped me get comfortable with myself.”
One mandatory stop on his tour is the Scholarship Resource Center, where he mentions how two university-wide scholarships helped him meet his goal of taking financial responsibility for his education costs.
Brown received the Marcia Baker Carroll and Almand “Bo” Carroll Scholarship and the Willie Mae Cathcart Memorial Scholarship.
With a 3.62 GPA in a double major of sociology and psychology, Brown also receives the Zell Miller Scholarship.
He plans to graduate in December – a semester early – partly to save money before starting graduate school in psychology. He ultimately hopes to work as a counselor, perhaps at a university.
To support himself at GSU, Brown works 21 hours a week as a recreation center supervisor and at least another eight hours as a tour guide.
On his tours, Brown tries to replicate the enthusiasm, honesty and knowledge of the tour guide who influenced and later mentored him: Christy Dinkins (B.A. ’11).
“He’s real, and that’s the feeling he gives prospective students,” said Dinkins, now an admissions counselor at Wesleyan College in Macon. “When I was shadowing him for an evaluation, I heard them say, ‘Hey, I love him. He’s the reason I’m going to Georgia State.’”
Brown’s introduction to GSU was almost by surprise. He was barely into his senior year at Commerce High School when a friend asked him to go on a campus visit. He had never heard of GSU, but agreed to make the 75-minute drive south on Interstate 85 to check it out.
“I loved what I saw and every bit of it,” said Brown. “If I had come down here by myself, I would have been overwhelmed. It can be hard to tell what is Georgia State and what is downtown Atlanta. I tell groups that though we are intertwined with a big city, Georgia State is really a tight-knit community, and there is nothing to be intimidated about.
“I also highlight student life opportunities and the 330 student groups we have here because people don’t realize we have so many ways to be involved.”
Today, Brown is a walking example of student involvement as well. He is a junior advisor to the Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Honor Society and a peer advisor in the psychology department.
“He takes initiative to develop new programs to enhance his position – for example, he compiles an ‘Events of the Week’ list that the department now posts on our Facebook page,” said psychology lecturer Andrea Weyermann.
“This list allows students to go to one place in order to discover everything occurring on campus that relates to psychology. It has become one of the most popular links for our undergraduate students. Colton’s preparation, intelligence, initiative and affable personality make him a perfect peer advisor for our department.”
Brown is also a member of The 1913 Society, GSU’s student ambassador corps.
“Colton Brown is the exemplary student – the rare mixture of a leader and team player,” said Chandler Brown (no relation), presidential communications coordinator and advisor to The 1913 Society. “Colton’s maturity and humbleness make him an excellent tour guide, ambassador, employee and mentor.”
“By utilizing his academic and extracurricular resources, he has taken every opportunity to make the most of his time on campus,” said Jean So (B.S. ’99), assistant director of admissions and tour guide supervisor.
“Because of his involvement, he has truly become a role model for his peers,” So said. His genuine enthusiasm and love for GSU makes him a wonderful tour guide, and it shows through his interactions.”
During the week of April 2, Brown expects to work more as a tour guide to serve the spring break demand, when the typical group of 25 people will double. He will lead a 90-minute campus showcase, half by bus and half by foot. From research opportunities to social life, Brown tries to pack in all the information these prospective students will need. He’ll also share some of his own story.
“I have a great respect for where Georgia State is going, and I can highlight what a great experience it is because I have done so much here in my time,” he said. “I’m a very good example of what Georgia State is, especially how it can greatly benefit someone from a smaller area or underrepresented population. It’s where you can make a completely fresh start, where you can be the person you’ve always wanted to be.”
April 3, 2012