Amazon Prime’s ‘The College Tour’ to film a Columbia episode this summer

Shane Verkest, The Columbia Chronicle| June 15, 2021

Ryan Brumback

An Amazondocumentary series highlighting college lifestyle and culture across the U.S. has selected Columbia for an episode of its upcoming second season.

It was announced May 24 that Columbia College Chicago will be featured in the Amazon Prime series “The College Tour.”

According to Andrew Whatley, senior director for enrollment marketing communications, Columbia got involved in“The College Tour”when they were approached by the series producersto do an episode.

“Columbia really is a unique place,” Whatley said. “I want to do everything I can to find that and to make sure [students discovering Columbia] know everything they need to know about us.”

Students were given the opportunity to send in their own auditions via Handshake to be featured in the episode.

“We want them to bring their authentic voices to it; we want them to be telling a story from their own experience in their own hearts,” Whatley said.

One student who applied and was selected to be featured in the episode was sophomore film and television major Jewel Baker. Baker said she learned about the opportunity to apply through Columbia’s Instagram page.

“I was really excited,” Baker said. “I think it’s going to open the eyes for individuals all over the world on what all Columbia can really offer.”

Another student who applied to be featured in the episode was Jacklyn Elliott, a junior film major. She thinks the episode will be a great way for incoming students to learn more about the school.

“I think a lot of the time when you go to orientations or campus tours, you might get speeches and stuff from teachers, whereas this is 100% student stories,” Elliott said.

Although the episode is still under development, it is currently planned to have 10 segments,each highlighting a unique part of the Columbia experience, such as Columbia’s emphasis on creativity and Columbia events like Manifest.

Senior film majorBertram Rodgers was also selected to be featured in the episode. He said heis excited for the opportunity to be an ambassador for the school.

“I am not a traditional student,” Rodgers said. “I’m older than the average age of a Columbia student.One of my main objectives is to serve as an example … that it is never too late for change.”

Daniel Levin, a junior creative writing major selected for the episode, believes a massive platform like Amazon Primewill give Columbianational and global exposure.

“I love Columbia and I have wanted to give back for such a long time,” Levin said. “I know how big of a difference a college tour can make or break your college acceptance journey.”

According to Alex Nelson,content marketing manager for the Undergraduate Admissions Office, this episode with Amazoncould boost enrollment.

“I think a 30-minute episode that really tells the story of Columbia can have a really strong influence and hopefully help prospective and incoming students see themselves reflected and think that Columbia is the right place for them,” Nelson said.

Filming will take place on campus from July 19 through July 22. The finished episode is slated to be released on Hulu and Amazon Prime by early October 2021.

About the Contributors

Shane Verkest, Multimedia Reporter

Ryan Brumback, Graphic Designer


Salus University Episode of “The College Tour” Primed for Amazon Stream

The episode features “A Prime location” segment, filmed on location in Chestnut Hill, about all things Philly as well as Salus student Tavii El, OT ‘21, of Philadelphia, among other Philadelphia area residents.

Press Releases |

Behind the scenes during the filming of Salus University’s episode of “The College Tour,” a new series streaming on Amazon Prime Video and
Roku, with host Alex Boylan.

(PRESS RELEASE) ELKINS PARK, PA — For schools nationwide, including Salus University, virtual tours and visits became the best way to introduce prospective students to campus life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, until now.

In one of the most recent episodes of “The College Tour,” a new series streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Roku, 11 Salus students and faculty tell their personal stories about pursuing a health science education. To debut the episode, the University will host a launch party along with a cast member meet-and-greet Thursday, June 10 at 5 p.m. at the Hafter Student Community Center located at the school’s main campus in Elkins Park.

Taking cues from their own Salus experiences, cast members went from health care professionals to script writers practically overnight. The talent featured in the 30-minute show includes Sonja Makitan ‘23OD, of Greensboro, North Carolina, and UNC Greensboro alumna; Zachary LaBarth ‘23AUD, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, and LaSalle University alumnus; Ashka Patel ‘23OD, of Cleveland, Ohio, and Miami University alumna; Sierra Niesen ‘24AUD, of Forest Grove, Oregon, and University of Oregon alumna; Mohit Batra, OD ‘21, of Valley Stream, New York, and CUNY Queens alumnus; Samantha Wereszczak ‘22PA, of South Brunswick, New Jersey, and West Chester University alumna; Pratik Shah ‘22OD, of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, and Stevens Institute of Technology alumnus; Jacqueline Wiafe ‘24AUD, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Kean University alumna; Tavii El, OT ‘21, of Philadelphia and Indiana University alumna; Dr. Kelly Malloy, of North Wales, Pennsylvania, chief of Neuro-Ophthalmic Disease Service at The Eye Institute (TEI) and professor of optometry at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus; and Robert Serianni, of Glenside, Pennsylvania, chair, director and assistant professor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) at Salus.

Guided by host Alex Boylan, winner of CBS’ “The Amazing Race” in 2002 who went on to produce and host leading shows on PBS, CBS, the Travel Channel and more, the show’s segments cover topics such as world class faculty, history and legacy, early clinical exposure and student life. Each segment explores a different topic through the lens of a student.

“People are going to Salus because they want to work in the medical field, and they want to become a doctor. They’re going to school with a higher purpose than many,” Boylan said. “That’s probably the overwhelming feeling I experienced throughout the entire filming process. A lot of students talk about early hands-on exposure since day one, working with people in health care. Salus does such an amazing job and being so close to Philadelphia, where health care is a leading industry, you can sense how fulfilling the academic experience is at the school.”

Speaking of Philadelphia, the setting of the entire episode, which was filmed over a week in March, LaBarth and Niesen’s segment titled “A Prime Location” focuses on all things Philly, offering East and West Coast perspectives of attending school in the City of Brotherly Love.

“Being a part of the filming process was really incredible. My journey to Salus started on the West Coast and it hasn’t been the easiest, but I love being able to share my experience with others,” Niesen said. “My favorite part of the filming process was seeing how they produced my segment and the magic that happened to make it into the final product!”

Although early clinical exposure is an ongoing narrative throughout the episode, it was the emphasis of Shah’s segment.

“My favorite part about filming was seeing behind the scenes. It was so interesting to actually interact with the people who helped with the creative process, the lighting, the audio team and everyone involved,” Shah said. “It showed me that normal people like us are able to put their skills and talents together to make something great.”

University President Dr. Michael H. Mittelman also agreed.

“The show highlights the most important aspects of our University – students and faculty,” Dr. Mittelman said. “They are the stars and their passion, determination and enthusiasm for their health care professions and Salus came through loud and clear. The University’s episode of “The College Tour” really gives us an opportunity to shine and share individual and personal stories about what it means to be Salus strong with the rest of the world.”

But the production team, including Boylan, had one request before they yelled cut.

“You can’t go to Philadelphia and not get a cheesesteak,” he said.

The Salus University episode is available at or by searching “The College Tour” on Amazon Prime Video.


UI featured in Amazon Prime series “The College Tour”

Payal Rathore | The Daily Illini

Chancellor Robert Jones poses with workers from The College Tour series. The series featured the University on April 27.

“The College Tour” series streaming on Amazon Prime featured the University, amongst other universities, on April 27. The series gives its viewers an insight on the actual campus life, from academics and sports to career opportunities.

The series is hosted by Alex Boylan, award-winning TV producer and host. Boylan also won a previous season of “The Amazing Race.”

The segment featured 11 students from different years and backgrounds, who shared their respective stories based on various topics ranging from campus involvement to research.

“It was a great experience to be featured on the college tour!” said Arnoldo Ayala, senior in LAS, in an email.
Ayala submitted a two-minute video telling his story once he got to know about the series from a group chat. Soon, he was cast on the show and had about a month to prepare his script and submit pictures for the same.

“My segment is about open access at the University,” Ayala wrote.
Once elected as a Senator for the Illinois Student Government in his sophomore year, students from the Illinois Coalition Assisting Undocumented Students Education and ISG, along with Ayala, decided to create a scholarship for students who do not qualify for federal financial aid.

“We called it the HOPE Scholarship, and it benefits a broad range of students from undocumented students, students without a permanent address and others who cannot qualify for FAFSA,” Ayala wrote, who was named as the director of the scholarship and called it a major highlight of his college experience.

“The College Tour” was inspired by Alex Boylan’s niece, Izabelle Polnaszek. After exploring colleges near Los Angeles, Polnaszek did not have the finances to fly around the country to look at other schools. The pandemic soon after and the lack of resources to travel the country resulted in doing research on colleges online.  

“This is when the lightbulb went off,” Boylan said, who went on to create “The College Tour” along with his partners (Lisa Hennessy and Burton Roberts), a series that showcases authentic stories told by current students attending the university.  

Boylan added that the team knew that they had to stay true to the University and the students in order to make this series real while serving the purpose of education and inspiring the next generation of prospective students.

“U of I is a really special episode,” Boylan said, regarding why the University was chosen to be a part of the series.  “This is my Co-Executive Producer’s (Lisa Hennessy) Alma Mater.  So going in I knew this was going to mean a lot to her and all the alumni of U of I.” 

Boylan further added that he was very impressed with the attitude of the students featured who showed confidence in delivering their lines on camera in front of the producers.


Searching for the Perfect College? Maybe You Should Watch More TV

Kelly M. Rawlings | SmartCollege.Com

Fort Lewis College, Durango Colorado, source Fort Lewis Foundation

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about how one might conduct a college search from the comforts of your own sofa.  The intent was to explore ways for students to conduct meaningful college searches as they were quarantined in their homes due to COVID-19. Virtual college information sessions, scanning college websites, search engines designed specifically for that purpose–what I didn’t know when I wrote that first article was that an exciting new opportunity for touring colleges was about to be unleashed and you can find it on Amazing Prime Video! Read on to find out why I think both college counselors and high school students should be excited about The College Tour…One thing we know about the high school age demographic is that they enjoy watching shows on screens.  They will do it for literally hours. We also know many of their parents have Amazon Prime.  So, just before the Christmas holiday as I was scrolling Facebook (because yes, that’s MY demographic), what to my wondering eyes should appear but a link on a friend’s story to something called “The College Tour.”  On Amazon Prime Video.  Not a college website!

College tours have gone mainstream! Now you can sit on your sofa and watch professionally produced videos on different colleges! The first episode was about Fort Lewis College

I had heard of it, but admittedly knew zilch about it.  At the end of the video, I was convinced my mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, adventure-loving husband who went to college to become an educator had made a poor collegiate choice twenty-something (okay, maybe thirty) years ago. He would agree. But how would he have known about a mid-sized school in Colorado that offered a major in exactly what he would have wanted to teach?  Now, however, a kid in Virginia could watch an episode about a college in Colorado that actually makes you feel like you are right there on campus.  The videos are meaningful and compelling in that all of the information is shared almost exclusively by actual students.  Yes, I’m sure the dialogue is scripted and of course it only shares the “best of,” but that’s what you get on an in-person campus tour anyway.  Only with these videos you get to see more of the campus and the surrounding community than you would on most in-person campus tours. 

They pick students to highlight different aspects of college life – academics, social, athletic, research, career advising, etc.  You learn just a little bit about five or six different students instead of just one tour guide that you’d have on an in-person visit. The format gives more students a chance to identify with someone they see on the screen.  

The producers, Alex Boylan, Lisa Hennessy, and Burton Roberts, know their demographic.  The host, Alex Boylan (yes, the winner of 2002 The Amazing Race), keeps his own commentary to a minimum but introduces each student and topic with enough energy and enthusiasm to make you want to keep watching. 

Each topic is highlighted for about 5 minutes which turns out to be about the attention span of most of the target population. Kids demand professional quality video and production these days.  This is where in-house college-produced virtual tours just can’t compete. While some online virtual tours are physically painful to watch, the videography and pace of delivery makes it difficult to stop watching an episode of The College Tour. 

The videos don’t try to replace an admissions information session.  They don’t list every major offered, harp on rankings, or walk you through the application process. In other words, they don’t rehash information available on a college website.  Instead, it provides just what the title indicates – a College Tour.  It offers a glimpse into the campus, the students, and the personality of each college community.

At one point when I was working at an amazing small, private, women’s college that often struggled to meet its enrollment goals I would find myself thinking, “if we could just get more students to visit…”  A platform such as this would have been a gift.  Looking back, given my background, I could now kick myself for not coming up with the idea myself. Through a short maze of unbelievable connections, I was able to link up with the producers of The College Tour to learn a bit more about how the idea materialized and came to fruition.  Alex Boylan shared, “The idea for The College Tour TV series came to me from my 16 year old niece.  Because of the pandemic and finances,  she wasn’t able to travel to tour colleges. So, using our skills as executive producers we created a series inspired by her and millions of other young people who are interested in attending college.” While the producers’ intent was to provide students with increased access to quality college tours, this new platform also serves as an exciting new opportunity for lesser-known colleges to reach a broader audience and, subsequently, achieve greater success in meeting enrollment targets.  It is truly a win-win for both sides of the desk.

Postscript:  Since watching the first episode and writing this article, I’ve since watched more alongside my 14 year old son who is into anything that flies but not so much into homework. Seeing the students (and planes and rockets) at Florida Tech captivated a 14 year old who has zero interest in a college search right now but was finally able to see a connection between what he enjoys and what he could study in college.  Turns out the target demographic for The College Tour might even be broader than I imagined.


Brown twins to be featured Sunday on Amazon Prime series

Jeremy Werner, ILLINI INQUIRER | May 23, 2021

Illinois football players Chase Brown and Sydney Brown will be featured on Sunday’s episode of Amazon Prime’s “The College Tour.” The series focuses on the college experience of specific college students and is hosted by Alex Boylan and produced by Lisa Hennessy, an Illinois alumna in speech communication.

Sunday’s episode will focus on 11 University of Illinois students, including the Brown twins. The episode will be available at 7 p.m. CT Sunday on YouTube or at

“This project was exciting for us,” Chase said in a statement. “It was a great way to tell our unique story as students and football players on this campus, and show off what a great place Illinois is to excel at both of those endeavors.”

Added Sydney in a statement: “It was important to include Illinois Athletics in this campus profile because the spirit of Illinois students really shines at sporting events, especially in Memorial Stadium. As students from Canada, I know this show would have been really helpful for my brother and myself as we were making our college decisions.”

Background: The Brown brothers are Canada natives who grew up in London, Ontario. Both transferred to St. Stephens Episcopal in Bradenton (Fla.) to play football. Though inseparable for most of their lives, the identical twins went separate ways for college — initially. Sydney signed with Illinois, while Chase chose Western Michigan over several power-five offers to pursue WMU’s aviation program. But the cost of flight schools and being away from his brother pushed Chase to transfer and he rejoined Sydney at Illinois.

Sydney, a junior safety, has started 26 of 27 games he’s played at Illinois, totaling 179 tackles, 10 passes defended and four interceptions. As a sophomore in 2019, he earned All-Big Ten Third Team honors from coaches after leading the team in interceptions and finishing second on the team in tackles.

Chase earned a waiver to play immediately midway through the 2019 season but preserved a redshirt by only playing in four games. He quickly emerged in 2020 as the Illini’s lead running back. His 540 rushing yards (5.2 ypc) ranked fifth in the Big Ten. He had back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances in wins over Rutgers and Nebraska. He had three rushing touchdowns and earned Third Team All-Big Ten honors from the media.


Producer, host of new show ‘The College Tour’ featuring U of I join WGN News

WGN News | May 20, 2021

The producer and host of the new streaming show “The College Tour,” which features the University of Illinois, joins WGN News at 4.


ASU featured on Amazon Prime series, Grand Canyon University to follow

KTAR.COM | APRIL 1, 2021

PHOENIX ─ Two Arizona universities will take the spotlight on an Amazon Prime streaming series, “The College Tour.”

Arizona State University is featured among the first three episodes and private Grand Canyon University is listed as a future choice on the tour website.

“The ASU College Tour” has been available for viewing since early March. Each 60-minute video of the new series gives prospective students and their parents a virtual tour of campuses. TV personality Alex Boylan hosts. The episode includes interviews with 18 ASU students from around the world.

“We are deeply impressed and grateful for the amazing students that volunteered their time and talents to tell the ASU story so well,” Kent Hopkins, vice president for enrollment services, said in a press release.

Phoenix native Lily Baye-Wallace was thrilled to be a participant. “My story is not unique, either. I’m surrounded by peers that have multiple majors, minors and graduate a semester or even a year ahead when that’s often impossible (not to mention expensive) at private universities,” Baye-Wallace, who studied mechanical engineering with a dance minor, said in the release.

Another Phoenix native, Rachel Shantz, explains in the episode she wanted a small college environment with the benefits of a large institution. “I firmly believe with all the options and opportunities available to you at Arizona State, you can find where you belong,” Shantz said in the release.


New Series About Campus Life Features University Of Illinois

CBS -2 Chicago | May 23, 2021

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has a featured role in a new series on Amazon Prime. “The College Tour” showcases schools around the country through the stories of students on campus.


The University of Illinois showcased in new Amazon Prime Show

Sally Schulze, Fox32 Chicago | May 20, 2021

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A new Amazon Prime show called, “The College Tour,” is giving viewers the chance to tour schools, like the University of Illinois, by watching television.

“It really is a chance for students who might be attending the university to see what it’s like through the lens of young people like themselves,” said Executive Producer Lisa Hennessy.  The show highlights 17 universities and colleges, with students introducing viewers to different aspects of their schools. 

The show comes during a time when in-person tours are out of reach for many, due to cost and coronavirus. The host, Alex Boylan, says his niece’s experience helped launch it. 

“She wanted to go to all different kinds of states and all different types of schools, and she didn’t have the finances to do that, and between that and then all of a sudden COVID hit, and what a challenge. So a light bulb went off saying higher education needs its own television show,” said Boylan.

The University of Illinois is the only school in the state and only Big Ten university to be profiled.  The show’s executive producer is a U of I grad. 

“I’m just so proud to have attended the University of Illinois and proud to help tell the university’s story because it’s such a great institution and really gave me my start in terms of helping launch my career,” said Hennessy. The tours are underway now on Amazon Prime.

‘College Tour’ series gives prospective students a taste of campus life at U of I

Nancy Harty, CBS Radio Chicago | May 23, 2021

The College Tour & Exclusive Aftershow for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled or changed a lot of college visits this past year but a new series gives prospective students a look at campus.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is hosting a live watch party at 7 p.m. Sunday for “The College Tour” episode featuring the Big Ten school.

“The College Tour” is a streaming series that Executive Producer Lisa Hennessy started working on before the pandemic hit.

The Park Ridge native and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign alum told WBBM Newsradio since the series debuted last October, it has shown high school students what they can expect academically and socially on campus.

“It’s a really authentic way to really get an idea of what a university is like though the voices of people who go there,” Hennessy told WBBM Newsradio.

Among the 11 students featured is Kennedy Campbell of Chicago, a sophomore who said Quad Day helped her find her place in Urbana-Champaign metro area.  Campbell helped create a mentorship group for pre-med students.

There’s really something for everyone. From Ultimate Frisbee to volunteer opportunities to creative writing,” Campbell said.

The first six episodes of “The College Tour” are available on Amazon PrimeYouTube and the show’s website. To listen to the full radio interview click here.