Capstone Men and Women showcase UniversityBy Adam Dodson | 09/20/2017 11:45pm
Working on Capitol Hill, Chandler Shields spends much of her time surrounded by both national and international leaders, as well as distinguished individuals and guests from all over the world. Her life can seem surreal at times, but her time at the Capstone — or, more accurately, her time in Capstone — has taught her to stay composed and maintain an “act like you’ve been there before” mindset. When Shields attended The University of Alabama, one of her primary roles was to give tours of the UA campus. In her professional life, she now manages constituent affairs, arranging or providing tours of the Capitol, White House, Library of Congress and other federal buildings.
“Once a tour guide, always a tour guide,” Sheilds said.
Shields, a graduate of The University of Alabama, is also an alumna of Capstone Men and Women, a leadership group that has been at The University of Alabama since 1962. They are a part of the University's public relations program that specializes in making sure visitors of the University have an enjoyable experience. By providing daily tours throughout all of the University's campus, and by coordinating with the administration for big campus events, Capstone Men and Women serves as a representative of The University of Alabama. Although most leadership organizations have challenges for those who join, Capstone provides its members with a unique leadership opportunity that goes beyond their time at the University.
The organization is best known for their tours that they provide throughout the year. These tours take prospective students, their parents and other visitors across campus while providing them with valuable and personable information. They are also very involved on football game days with the University, working closely with the administration.
Starting off as "Crimson Girls," the organization later began admitting men into the program. In the '90s, this eventually led to the renaming of the group as "Capstone Men and Women" or just "Capstone" for short.
"My time in Capstone taught me how to manage my time before joining the work force," Shields said. "I learned so much about how to act professionally, and I am thankful for that now with my job in D.C."
Capstone has certain requirements not only to be accepted into the group, but to stay in the group as well. Those who apply are expected to have a 3.0 GPA, possess the ability to have genuine conversations with a diverse group of people and must have sizable knowledge of certain aspects of The University of Alabama. Members are expected to stay involved in campus activities while balancing their grades and work with the organization. Members who are first starting out have to overcome the challenge of the tough demands the University and Capstone have for them, said Capstone President Alex Grady. Hopeful members, as well as current members, also have to go through a strenuous interview process each February.
"I'm not going to lie, at first everything about Capstone is challenging," Grady said. "It's a rigorous interview process, learning everything about the University is difficult and adjusting to the schedule isn't easy. But now, having been on the other side I wouldn't trade those long nights studying for the test or back-to-back tours for anything."
Grady, who says she has given close to 300 tours, said that eventually Capstone members can give UA tours with ease, but starting off proves difficult. Memorizing everything about the University while also being personable with your tour group is something new members must learn to adjust to. The occasional back-to-back tour and grade requirements also put a pressure on new members.
"Our job is to know everything there is to know with the University," said Jake Varra, who became a member of Capstone in February 2017. "Getting started, one of the more challenging tasks was learning all of the information in a presentable fashion so that we could begin to give tours of campus."
The tours have become prestigious for Capstone, who are known for each having their own individual style for their tours, including jokes and life stories that become routine during a tour. The parents like certain jokes or stories while the potential students enjoy looking at the campus. Although being president makes her days very busy, Grady still finds the time to give tours.
"Throughout my years on Capstone, it was always gratifying to run into a student on the Quad and they say 'Hey, you gave me my tour!' or 'You are the main reason I chose Alabama!' To me, that is one of the most fulfilling impacts that Capstone had on me," Shields said.
None of what happens at Capstone happens without the help from other group members. Oftentimes members who have a difficult time adjusting to their loaded schedules must rely on someone else who can give them advice or tough love. Being part of a prestigious organization, there is a certain level of professionalism and efficiency that is expected.
"I would have to say my brother Rob, who is a former member, helped me a lot," Grady said. "Although he did help me with learning the script, he gave me a lot of tough love which, now, I value more than anything else."
The tours will continue through the fall semester before new members are selected early in the spring semester. Those looking for members of Capstone during their tours can find them wearing their distinctive suits and red dresses, surrounded by large groups of people on the quad, at the REC center, and at the Ferguson Student Center, among multiple other locations.
Students looking to apply to be a member of Capstone or who are interested in a tour may do so by going online at cmw.ua.edu. The application is divided into two individual rounds, with the first round being near the end of January and the next round towards the beginning of February.