Alex Boylan performing his scripts

Last year, at this time, a team from The College Tour visited the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania campus to film and feature our students and faculty highlighting what makes Salus University unique and stand out ahead of the pack.

Each episode of the show tells the story of a single college through the lens of its students, and in our case, our faculty as well. One of eight universities featured during Season One, alongside other institutions such as the University of Connecticut, University of Illinois and Florida Tech to name just a few, Salus was the only post-graduate health science distinct university highlighted.

During the week-long production schedule, executive producer, show creator and host, Alex Boylan, filmed his intro and outro segments in front of the picturesque pond. And, prior to the official launch party last summer, he also met with us virtually to discuss the reason behind the development of The College Tour, the production process and how much he enjoyed shooting on site at Salus.
Q: What about Salus stood out to you when you were filming here?
Boylan: There's so many things that stood out while filming at Salus. So, I don't know, how many answers do you want here? But for me, it was really exciting. The location's amazing. You're so close to Philadelphia, such a historic iconic location, so that's beautiful. But I would say, overall it felt like more of a family on campus. I think because it's this small, close-knit group of people, all going to school with a purpose. People are going to Salus because they want to work in the medical field, and they want to become a doctor. They're coming to school with a higher purpose than most. They're going to school, so you can just feel that sense of community, you feel that sense of purpose and that's probably the overwhelming feeling I felt throughout the entire filming process.
Q: How did the filming of an episode at Salus compare to some of the other universities that you filmed at?
Boylan: It's a great question, and I get that question all the time and I don't love to compare universities because how do you compare Salus to Arizona State University? It's a very challenging thing. And, I don't want to lead back to my first answer, but that's where I would go. The sense of purpose and where the students came from because most of them had something happen.

If you listened to their stories, something happened to them early on that made them say, "I want to be this. I want to help fix people's eyes. I want to help fix people's speech," or whatever part of the medical industry they're super passionate about and I go back to that purpose. These students had such purpose and such caring about why they were going to school and also hands-on experience. You felt that because a lot of students talk about it since day one, first year, they are working with people in healthcare.

They're actually getting their hands dirty and I think, as someone who went to college and realizes, there's nothing better than real experience. I think because Salus does such an amazing job of implementing that in the first year for someone, as well as being so close to Philadelphia where there's this need. You have this need there, it just makes for a great combo. And, you can't compare that to any other school. That is a very unique, distinct, amazing thing that only Salus has.
Q: When you met the actual students and the faculty members that we used in the film, what was your impressions of them? The people themselves?
jaqueline being filmedBoylan: From the students to the faculty, I'll go back to this family. You could just feel how close they were. Obviously, it's small class sizes at Salus, and so you know the relationship between the professor and the student is very, very tight, and just preparing them for the real world that they're going to go down.

I hate picking out certain students because they were all amazing, but I always think back to Jaqueline Wiafe’s ‘24AUD story. Here's this person who has come over here, she has such a purpose to get in there, and she wants to take all these skills, not only to just make money and do great things, but she wants to go back to West Africa. She wants to bring all this knowledge and everything she's learned here at Salus and in the Western world, back to Africa to help out where she grew up. Is there any story that gets better than that? I don't think so.
 
Q: Now I know the Salus campus is a lot smaller than maybe where you're used to filming at, like at Arizona State, but what were your first impressions of the campus when you saw it?
Boylan: Well, it's the most picturesque campus and location you can think of because it's small, it's quaint. The waterway with that bridge where I'm actually filming my standup, that is just a beautiful, beautiful location. But for someone like me who lives in Los Angeles, this is nearly a desert. It's so nice to be there where you're in this beautiful - I don't know, do you call it the suburbs? But you have so much greenery and just beauty around you, yet you're so close to the city of Philadelphia. You don't have to drive far to get to a major, major city. So to me, it's a beautiful part of this country. It's amazing.
Q: Did you get a chance to spend any time in Philly at all?
Boylan: You know, my travel schedule is pretty tight. But you can't go to Philadelphia and not get a Geno's cheesesteak. It's impossible. It is impossible to do that.

So, yeah. I got to go into Philadelphia. I grew up in Boston, so I know the city well, and it's one of the most historic cities in our country with great people.
Q: How does 'The College Tour' filming specifically help Salus? How will it help Salus moving forward?
Boylan: I can give you a thousand ways. This show started from a very simple scenario. My niece is from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. And, she was given one trip to go look at schools, so she decided to come to Los Angeles. We took her to UCLA, Loyola Marymount, all these schools. Then my niece is like, "Oh, I want to go to Texas and all these different places." I could still hear my older sister say, "We only could afford one trip."

And, then COVID hit. So, this show was brought out of a real problem that was in the market, that my niece was technically really going through. It started from this position of the students and the next generation, what a great tool for them to be able to watch an episode, whether it's watch segments of it online or sit back with their parents and watch it on Amazon or many other different devices and watch it long form.

It was designed in this way for students and parents to sit back and get a true sense of what that college experience is like, especially for those who could not, maybe whether it's funds or for whatever reason it is, travel to that location.

It was started from prospective students, but I can tell you, I get emails. I've had emails literally from presidents of universities that would forward me emails over and said, "One of our biggest benefactors saw the episode and wants to give more money to the university." We never started off with that idea, but it has helped in fundraising. We've had colleges say, "This has been the biggest alumni engagement thing we have had to date." And, obviously, that's a big, important thing is keeping them tight.

We're seeing the power of this show, done in this very authentic, real way, work in so many different areas and be a very evergreen show that can live on for a while, so I'm excited about that. I'm very proud of that.

And, there's a big team that makes this whole process happen. But once again, I always like to say, it didn't start with that approach. It started with the idea, "Oh wow! Students need to see something to learn more information about the university." So, I think that's how 'The College Tour' helps Salus. Or I hope it helps Salus.
Q: Obviously, during the pandemic, virtual tours of campuses probably became very, very popular. What do you think ''The College Tour'' offers that the virtual tours can't that you can't really experience in that?
Boylan: You know, it's interesting. I've spent my career in this business. Lisa Hennessy's one of the most prolific producers. I'm not trying to brag about our team, but we have done some of the biggest shows on television. I think from typical virtual tours, I've seen some stuff where you can kind of go through just virtually and look at things; I've also seen people go around with iPhones; I've seen different ways it's done. Imagine, this is what I know how to do. When my niece had this problem, I was like, "I know how to make a television show."

And, from day one, this is a 10-week-plus preproduction schedule. We're working on, what are the ideas? What are the different segments that are going to make up the story of Salus? And, then who's going to be the voice behind this? What are they going to say on camera? There's a lot of time and this is a very collaborative effort. This isn't like ''The College Tour'' just walks in like, "Oh, this is what it's going to happen." No, we need to hear. We always say that the University, you all become producers. We gain this other producing team and I think it's the amount of time and energy that's focused in on it with some expertise that we come from on our end and of course, our editing team is Emmy Award-winning, our production team, our videographers, all that stuff should be at the top of its game.

slp students being filmedBut when it comes down to this - pre-production.  It's this collaboration between the school and our team coming up with the ideas and the people. And, it's also, one of the things I'm most proud of with the show, and I'm going to be cocky here, none of these students, none of these professors, when you watch the video below have probably ever been on television before. And, when you watch it, you think they have been doing this their whole life. I take such pride and such care, if people knew and if you listened to our producers and directors that are out there in the field, how much time on our end goes through thinking of, everyone's different. How to get what we need out of them, it's not just a one size fits all. It's the art of this whole thing. And, how do you make this? I guess that all those things combined is what makes it different. This is a television show. Obviously, it's a massive tour that goes into that world but I just think that we bring a little bit of Hollywood to it.
Q: Dr. Mittelman specifically asked me if all the students use teleprompters. And, I was like, "No, they just memorize their scripts and we did takes." He said, "Wow, that's amazing." So, you saying that they've never been on TV before and the practice and whatnot and how the final product comes across is just amazing, truthfully. Why do you think that's important?
Boylan: I appreciate that. Once again, this is a team effort to get where we are with this episode. But if I had a nickel for every time somebody tells me, "Alex, we need to start having a teleprompter." And, they say it all the time to me and I kill that thing so fast, "We're never going there because I want this to be authentic" and for the audience to know, "Yes, of course we're involved to help shape this, but these are real students and these are real professors and these are really their stories."

The first part of the whole process as they write the first draft of their script and what they're going to say, because we need to keep that heart and energy. If we lose that, it just becomes a bunch of marketing speech. We're just like everything - I don't want to say everything else out there - but we're not being true and authentic.

Ashka being filmedAnd, we want this to stay true and authentic while telling an awesome story about Salus. So, it starts there and then it gets molded and shaped and then we work on talent coaching. Our producers and directors are great in the field so I never will allow this show to ever go to teleprompter. By the way, everyone, I used a teleprompter. But the students and faculty, those are real. They're really performing out there and we never want to try to teach someone teleprompter - they're going to sound like they're reading.

I think it's a massive kudos to the students and all the amazing students at Salus because they're going to school, they have exams, all this stuff's going on and then all of a sudden, it's like, "Hey, by the way, you're going to star on a television show for us." There's a responsibility on their end and there's a lot to take on and it's fun because 99% of everyone is never going to be prepared because as soon as that camera's in someone's face, and there's a crew behind them and everyone's watching, it changes.

So, to watch them, these are doctors. They're so specialized and genius in there and all of a sudden, they're coming into this completely other world. And, we're like, "Okay, now we're going to play that on television. And, we want you to be you." It's magical.
 
When I talk about the show to friends, "My background's in making travel shows and I haven't been this happy making a show." I'm trying to always figure out what it is that I love so much about it, and I think what it is, it's working with people who've never worked in television typically from start to finish. You're in the pre-production process, we're working together, and we're learning. We're learning about you all. And, then we need to absorb Salus into our heads to understand, "What is your culture? What's your world?" You're learning from us. This is how we make television and take that process through every piece of it, all the way down to someone who's never been on camera, it's like, "We got you. We guarantee, you're going to look great." So, there's this trust, there's this education, and that just makes this such an awesome experience from top to bottom.