by Mallory Zink ’15
“Year one’s evaluation: Success!
Year Two’s prognostication: Bigger and Better!”
So might read the hypothetical report card of the very real President’s Ambassador Program.
Launched in the fall of 2012, the program connects student ambassadors with guests, alumni, and community members who attend College events that often feature President Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran. “We want to showcase how awesome our students are,” said Kate Willard, the coordinator of the program.
Willard begins the search for student ambassadors by consulting faculty for recommendations of “out-of-this-world” candidates. This year 110 students were recommended and were provided instructions and information for applying. Sixty students completed the application, designed to showcase students’ critical thinking and self-expression.
The last step is an interview with Willard. These included Skype interviews for some students on study abroad. “We are looking for a diverse set of students and experiences that represent the breadth of today’s K-Plan,” said Willard. Last year 12 students were chosen, this year the program will expand to 16.
Cameron Goodall ’15 took part in the program last year and was able to renew his spot for this coming year. “When I got the e-mail from Kate it sparked my interest right off the bat,” said Goodall. “Fall quarter was my busiest quarter so far, so I wasn’t sure if I would have time, but I really wanted to develop relationships with alumni.”
Phoebe Solomon ’13 was on the edge about applying too. “It was my senior year; I wasn’t sure I wanted to have this commitment on my plate. But the events sounded cool. There were lunches with the president, and you get to meet alumni from all different industries.”
Solomon added, “I think Kate did a prime job of picking students that had a wide variety of skill sets and experiences. It was very well organized.”
“Every ambassador has their own unique story,” said Willard. Training helps the students reflect upon and articulate their own stories and to listen and be responsive to the stories of others.
Rachel Wood, Assistant Director of the Center for Career and Professional Development, meets with the ambassadors to teach some basic steps in good networking. Training includes greeting etiquette and campus tour highlights.
The ambassadors meet monthly to discuss what is new and happening on campus and to share the various activities in which they are involved. It was a good and easy way for the ambassadors and Willard to be well informed and up-to-date on the College.
The group meets with Wilson-Oyelaran once a quarter. She asks the students for their opinions about events happening on campus and shares her own experiences.
Goodall said it was a great experience to have lunch with the President. “It was a comfortable atmosphere for two-sided conversation. One of the lunches occurred right when the StuComm [Student Commission] recall was happening, so we discussed that a lot.”
The student ambassadors make many connections. “Even simple events were great,” said Willard. “It’s less about the event than it is about the people.”
The ambassadors are required to sign up for at least five events during the academic year. Willard said, “We had some students just go to the airport and drive back with some of our guests. We can use those 15 minutes to build a connection between the guest and the College. It can be as simple as that.”
Goodall’s favorite event was the Bach Festival holiday reception at the President’s house. “I was able to eat lunch with alumni that were members of the 1833 Society [the leadership giving society of the Kalamazoo College Fund] and talk
"I wanted to develop relationships with alumni."to them about their K stories and tell them my K story—there are often stark differences,” said Goodall. In some sense then, ambassadors serve as a bridge between different K eras.
Given her interest in theatre arts and set design, Solomon felt fortunate to provide alumnus David France ’81 a tour of the campus. France was visiting to screen his Oscar-nominated documentary, How to Survive a Plague. “David was so cool, such a great guy! He has seen and done so much. We were on the same wave-length on a lot of things,” said Solomon.
Willard had her own favorite event--“The College invited Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi to come to K, through PeaceJam. This is an organization that I have been volunteering with since I was in college. Watching the ambassadors interact with her and other leaders of that group meant a lot to me.”
You’ll know if you see a student ambassador. “We have that fantastic ambassador swag,” said Willard. “We discussed the idea of a uniform, and of course the orange and black was a no brainer.
"We are wiser now with one year under our belts,” Willard added, “We have more thoughts now on how to make the program even better and more effective in the upcoming year.”
Photo 1 - President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran with Student Ambassador Cameron Goodall ’15 at the Bach Festival reception held at the President’s home.
Photo 2 - Alumnus David France ’81 with Student Ambassador Phoebe Solomon ’13.
Photo 3 - Tyler McFarland ’14, Kelsey Donk ’15, Tendai Mudyiwa ’14, Phoebe Solomon ’13, and Alex Werder ’15 at a reception for alumni and the president.