Over its first decade, the College of Humanities Student Ambassador Program has included about 125 students who’ve represented and advocated for the college at recruiting events and a host of outreach projects.
The program started as a way to involve current students as a way to bridge the professional advisors and prospective students. Along the way, it’s evolved from a volunteer program to a formal internship, with specific training in communication and public speaking to help ambassadors articulate the value of their Humanities degrees and the essential skills that connect all the diverse majors.
Jeremiah Webb, now the College’s Student Success and Retention Specialist, created the student ambassador program in 2012. As a senior academic advisor, he had discussions with Lyn Durán, COH Director of Academic Advising and Student Services, about how best to reach prospective students and understood the potential of involving current students who could talk about their own experiences.
“We’d attend recruitment events and meet with prospective students, and as great and fulfilling as that was, we could see the value in having current students talking to them, meeting them where they’re at,” he said.
At the time, the College of Humanities was one of the only colleges on campus with an ambassador program, though it’s become more common now. The first semester, about a dozen students signed up for the program, and Webb distinctly remembers seeing the impact they made right away.
“It was amazing the first time I realized how incredible they are when you see them in their element talking to students,” Webb said. “They all have qualities like empathy and the ability to connect with other students. You could absolutely see the difference they made in approaching other students, talking to them about concerns, answering questions from the perspective of having been there recently. That’s been huge.”
As a French major, Karina M. Rodríguez was one of the first ambassadors to join the program, which she now oversees as College of Humanities Director of Recruitment.
“One of my favorite parts of being a Humanities ambassador was the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with COH staff and faculty. I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes workings of the university and being part of a program whose mission involved promoting the value of the Humanities. So many of those experiences informed my academic and career choices,” she said. “Ten years later, I am a professional ambassador and I’m thrilled to be in a position where I can combine my passion for Humanities, higher education, networking, student development, and recruiting.”
Even though the ambassadors come from a range of different majors within the College, they share a passion for transcultural community and a global mindset, so it’s easy to learn from one another as they work together.
“Team building is a big part of the training from day one. The internship adds that layer of professionalism and accountability for them,” Rodríguez said. “They’ll have a good experience and stay engaged as alumni. It’s really a pipeline, from prospective humanities student, to major, to ambassador, to alumni. Seeing that has been really fulfilling.”
Serena Valle, a former ambassador who graduated with a degree in Spanish Translation and Interpretation in 2014, said she enjoyed being part of a community of students who were College of Humanities majors in departments other than her own, and learning about their programs.
Some of her favorite experiences as an ambassador were tabling at events like Arizona Experience, talking to prospective students about her major and why she chose it, and answering questions about what it was like to study in the College of Humanities. Valle went on to earn a master’s degree in higher education and now works as a senior academic advisor in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. In part, it was her experience as an ambassador that solidified her desire to work with university students.
“I love the work I do supporting Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Mathematic (STEAM) related majors but many of the times working with these students I incorporate work and opportunities from the humanities,” she said. “My skills I cultivated from my humanities experience does not stop at just my undergraduate experience but is now a part of my everyday life. It is the way I can further make connections and have interactions to those around me.”
Kjersten Erickson, who graduated in 2018 with degrees in Russian and Slavic Studies and Business Management, said she still cherishes her time as an ambassador to this day.
“My experience as an ambassador was one of community, joyfulness, and meaningful outreach to students looking to further their knowledge and understanding of the complex world we live in,” she said. “Our ambassador dinners and tabling events for prospective students stand out as just a couple of my favorite memories that allowed me to grow my network, gain confidence in the area of humanities, and have a whole lot of fun while doing it.”
Now the assistant campus manager for the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, Erickson still uses the skills she learned, both in her major and in the ambassador program.
“I feel like once you become an ambassador for the College of Humanities you are an ambassador for life. The areas of study that the college focuses on become more and more relevant each day and expressing the value that comes from a humanities degree is something that I try to do often,” she said.