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Student Ambassador Program Revisioned

7 students and a professor dressed up in blue suits standing and smiling

L-R: José Cleves, Alyssa Klein, Jack Dowe, Meaghan Tetro, Luke Velez, Yenny Bayas, Jillian Korwek, and Alexandra Sosa.

After a brief dormancy, the School of Business’ Student Ambassador Program has been revived and re-envisioned. The new program, poised to begin its second year in the fall, was reinstated by Dr. Robert Forbus, professor of marketing. First and foremost, the program is about helping and teaching those students selected as ambassadors. Dr. Forbus describes it as “developing the leaders of tomorrow, and refining the skills they already have in the raw.” Funded entirely through donors, the program provides each student with a $1,000 stipend/scholarship per semester. For the 2017-2018 academic year, an anonymous donor has pledged $5,000 specifically to the program, an immense boost to its continuation.  

The term “ambassador” is apt; the students, with an officially designated uniform, act as liaisons between students, visiting guests, and the university’s administration. “These students are more than tour guides and hosts or hostesses,” Dr. Forbus explains. They have represented the School of Business before audiences as diverse as members of the Connecticut General Assembly and alumni groups. They conduct tours and meet with prospective students and their families. They act as official representatives at workshops and alumni events, and participate in online development training. They help other students when they need assistance or have questions about institutional issues.

It’s challenging work, but rewarding. “As ambassadors, we play a vital role in what the future looks like for the School of Business and we act as the voices of our fellow classmates. Undertaking this role was a big adjustment, but it has been the most rewarding part,” says Jillian Korwek, a senior. Alyssa Klein, also a senior, adds, “I have pushed myself past the limits I previously had, to a point where I feel more comfortable and prepared to succeed in the business world after graduation.” Students outside of the program also benefit—not only can they turn to ambassadors with any questions they have, but soon, the ambassadors plan on designing workshops and career-development programs open to their fellow students.

The program has increased from eight to nine members for the 2017-2018 academic year. Five are returning students, the remaining four carefully selected from the undergraduate School of Business cohort. The first round of the application process is statistical; students who have at least a 3.5 GPA, certain course requirements fulfilled, and other objective criteria are then invited to a round of interviews, conducted by the current ambassadors and faculty members. “They’re fair but critical,” says Dr. Forbus. “They understand the group dynamics, and partly base their decisions off of who would be the best choice to sustain balance in personalities and other behavioral variables.”

His role in the program is less executive director than it is student mentor/coach. “I don’t tell them what to do,” he says, laughing. “Mostly, I ask questions that will make them think. I like providing tips and insight into what I call ‘teachable moments’ – getting the students to cultivate good habits in the professional world. Teaching them to say ‘yes’ to opportunities” -- opportunities that include meeting one-on-one with alumni and other visiting professionals, learning to maximize their social media presence, and cultivating professional networks before graduating. With its renaissance, the Student Ambassador Program is set to have a long and productive future. “My greatest hope is that this program is my lasting contribution to the School of Business, and to the students,” Dr. Forbus adds. “I’m just so proud of all of them.”