Humans of UWL: Vanguards

UWL vanguards. Photo retrieved from

Henry Anderson, Photojournalist

Vanguards are the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s tour guides for prospective students along with their families. Every year, the vanguards lead members of UWL’s potential next class to see all the sights and provide them with some familiarity across campus before they choose which school to ultimately attend.

“Vanguards are essentially campus tour guides,” said Kate Lochner, a 4th-year here at UWL. “We give tours to prospective students and their families along with volunteering a bit throughout campus,” said Lochner. Lochner is a resident of Phillips, Wisconsin, majoring in communication studies with an emphasis in public communication and advocacy.

Kate Lochner. Photo taken by Henry Anderson.

“We are one of the first college students you meet when you walk onto campus at UWL,” said Delanie Johnson, another 4th-year vanguard. Johnson, a public health and community health education major from Waukesha, Wisconsin, continued, “It is really important to bring the energy and bring the UWL spirit.”

Along with being tour guides on campus, the vanguards help with volunteer opportunities both on and off campus. “We volunteer with move-in weekend, we volunteer with the Rotary Lights, and we get to walk in the Oktoberfest parade every year,” said Lochner. Johnson continued, “Sometimes we will do ‘welcoming.’ So, before our big campus close-ups, we will be standing outside the university as people come in.”

“So, for campus close-up, that is when we will do a student-led panel,” said Kayley Coppage, a third-year biology major from Racine, Wisconsin, who is also vanguard. Coppage continued, “So, there will be a select few of us going over questions students have…Our main responsibility, though, is to give tours.”

Kayley Coppage. Photo taken by Henry Anderson.

As Lochner, Johnson, and Coppage said, while they participate in volunteer work on campus and in the community, vanguards are ultimately responsible for being the campus’s tour guides. These tours are usually given to high school students along with their parents. Occasionally, vanguards will have to give a tour to a topic-oriented group, such as a group of student-athletes or a group from a Boy’s and Girl’s Club.

“The tour varies on the group and even what the students in the group are thinking about studying,” said Lochner. “For example, at the start of every tour, I ask all the students to say what they think they want to study in college. If every single one of my students says they want to study business, I might briefly talk about Prairie Springs but then when we get into Wittich Hall, I might talk more about our business program and things like that.”

“We always like to say that ‘Your tour should never be the same.’ You always have different questions, you have different perspectives, so, telling different stories is always fun,” said Coppage. Coppage continued, “[I like] having different conversations with a variety of different people.”

Johnson, like Coppage, said that one of the best parts of being a vanguard is all the people you meet. “I like getting to meet all of the prospective students and getting to hear the different backgrounds that they come from and different interests and stories they have,” said Johnson. Johnson continued, “I think you get to meet a lot of different people. And, truly, I learn from them as much as they learn from me.”

Delaney Johnson. Photo taken by Henry Anderson.

Since they are usually the first people students run into when introduced to UWL, vanguards leave their impressions on those touring the campus. When she was playing volleyball in the REC one day, Coppage said, “I actually had a student come up to me and say, ‘you were my vanguard.’”

“I had just come back from a tour and a prospective student’s grandpa came up to me afterwards,” said Johnson. She continued, “He said, ‘I really appreciate all of your help. I know if I was a high schooler and coming to a campus that feels so big, it would be tough. But you made me feel so comfortable while I was here and it truly gave me a warm welcome.’” Johnson said, “This is the reason we have vanguards, because we are living the college life and opening up the door for that small second to show what their future could look like.”

“The ability to communicate clearly and public speaking skills are something necessary for being a vanguard,” said Lochner. Lochner continued, “We want students who are able to speak highly of the student experience here.”