Maryland Images tour guides share what you might not know about the University of Maryland

By Sarah Sexton on October 9, 2012

Students might see Maryland Images tour groups wandering around campus and think they know the majority of what the guide is telling the eager prospective students, their families and other guests to the campus.

The task may seem simple for any student who has spent enough time on campus. Simply point out and name buildings, suggest the stir fry at the South Campus Diner for lunch and recommend rubbing Testudo’s nose for luck, right?

However, Images guides do far more than pointing out McKeldin Library, Byrd Stadium and the Stamp Student Union. Images guides go through six training sessions to learn all the fun facts, stories, history and traditions that have made the University of Maryland the vibrant community it is today, one in which all Terps can take pride.

One of the university’s largest bragging points, according to sophomore Images tour guide Liz Ebeling, is the McKeldin Mall at the heart of the campus. While students lie in the shade between classes or play ultimate Frisbee in the afternoon sun, they may not realize they are on the largest academic mall in the United States, Ebeling said.

“We used to have a rivalry with UVA [University of Virgina] because they would say their mall is bigger than ours,” Ebeling said. “But when they were both measured, ours was obviously bigger.”

The approximately nine-acre mall is surrounded by oak trees, each of which represents a graduating class since the 1950s, Images Student Coordinator Nick Orban said.

Students walking around the mall see those trees every day, but many do not know that they represent generations of Terps that have walked those very same paths in the past. Speaking of paths, students may notice that the sidewalks across the mall are “a bit wonky,” as Images Student Coordinator Lizzie Majchrzak described them.

Images tour guides

Maryland Images tour guides give visitors to the campus an inside-scoop about the University of Maryland’s history and traditions. Photo: Maryland Images website.

Rather than cutting across the mall in straight, parallel lines, the sidewalks crisscross the grass. Student Coordinator Sapna Khemka explained, “The president of the university decided to let the students decide where they needed sidewalks. There were no paths, so students just walked across the grass. Then the president had sidewalks built wherever the grass was most trampled down.”

The students who trampled the paths on the mall were not the only students to pave their own way. Alum Jim Henson, the famous entrepreneur and creator of the Muppets, not only created his own success story but also founded the Independent Studies Program, which allows students to create their own majors.

When Henson was a student at the university, he created his own major, puppeteering. “It was a combination of physics, home economics and theatre,” Majchrzak said.

Some of Henson’s professors were not always supportive of his project. “You know those two grouchy guys from the Muppets who complain and criticize everything?” Majchrzak asked. “Those two were based on advisers who told Henson he would never amount to anything with puppeteering.”

Several Muppets characters were inspired by people Henson met at the university. In fact, the prima donna Miss Piggy is based on one of Henson’s ex-girlfriends.

Henson is not the only celebrity to have spent time at Maryland. In 1973, Bruce Springsteen performed for students in the Cole Field House. “The funny thing is, before Bruce Springsteen was famous he was supposed to come perform here,” Images Student Committee Head Melia Stuppy said. “But he got so nervous he didn’t perform. The students here gave him stage fright.”

Stage fright is certainly one thing that Maryland Images tour guides lack. Every time they start off a tour, they begin with a smile and a friendly welcome to the University of Maryland. Then they head off on a tour to show visitors just why they are proud to “Walk like a Terp.”




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