2014-2015 cohort at their August Orientation (training)

2014-15 College Ambassadors with Advisor Jillian Ives at their orientation

A new group of 14 College Ambassadors will begin its duties in the fall of 2016. These undergraduate students will join 10 returning Ambassadors in serving UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources and Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture. The Ambassador Program Advisor Jillian Ives says the cohort’s mission is a three-fold one of recruiting, service and leadership.

For example, they recruit prospective students on the phone and in open houses and assist at CAHNR events like Scholars’ Night. The Ambassadors also are active in community projects three to four times a year, which include outreach like working at a local soup kitchen and volunteering at a raptor sanctuary. In addition, the chosen students interact with faculty and staff, families and alumni in other ways.

In return, each Ambassador receives a $400 stipend and leadership training in skills, such as public speaking, networking and professional development. Current and former Ambassadors speak of increased confidence and improved communication abilities as byproducts of the experience that continues beyond their days at UConn.

“I have changed through this program even more than I thought I would be in the short year that I’ve been an Ambassador,” said animal science student Amanda Michelson. A self-described introvert, Michelson saw the program as an opportunity to step out of her comfort zone in order to network and reach out to new people. She was motivated to apply to the program because she realizes that if she becomes a veterinarian, as she hopes, she will need to possess people skills as well as the ability to work with animals.

Ambassadors working Career Night 2015

Four of the Ambassadors who worked at Career Night 2015

Another student, Monica Garvey, is about to graduate from UConn and leave the Ambassadors after four years of service. She said her year as a student coordinator of the group taught her about peer management, communication and team building. This helps her as she is finishing her clinical hours to become a registered dietitian. “I have already applied these skills in the hospital and other clinical settings,” she said. According to Garvey, her Ambassador experience is transferable to providing patient care where all members of the medical team are effectively working together.

Developing professional skills that are “invaluable in life after college” was an important part of the Ambassador program for alumna Katherine Lainas, as well. She added, “Being an Ambassador taught me how to translate the academic aspect of my education beyond a college campus.” When asked about her advice for the new cohort, she said, “I encourage you to take full advantage of this opportunity. Your time as an Ambassador will extend well beyond your years at UConn. You will reap what you sow. Don’t just do the minimum requirements—invest yourselves into the Ambassador community.”

2015-2016 cohort Dean’s house dinner

2015-16 Ambassadors with CAHNR’s Dean and Director Gregory Weidemann at his house

The advantages are two-way. CAHNR also benefits from its relationship with the Ambassadors. “The College gets to increase its recruitment efforts and have help with programming and events, but it also develops engaged and connected Ambassador alumni. I think the faculty and administration also recognize the excellence of this program,” Ives said.

The word about the Ambassadors is spreading. Since CAHNR developed its program in the fall of 2009, other UConn schools and colleges have started and grown their own Ambassador organizations. In addition, the College’s program expanded to accept 24 students this year instead of the usual 20 in order to add some programming elements with alumni.

More information, including application instructions and a blog, is available on the College Ambassadors website.

The new Ambassadors, with their majors and expected graduation dates listed, are

Theresa Armijo, Natural Resources (May ’18)

Emily Chu, Allied Health Sciences (May ’19)

Kelly Chuquihuanca, Animal Science AAS (May ’16), Animal Science BS (May ’18)

Alyssa Condon, Animal Science, (adding Resource Economics), (May ’18)

Melinda (Mindy) Gosselin, Natural Resources (May ’19)

Djion Holness, Animal Science (May ’19)

Daniel Munch, Animal Science (May ’19)

Julie Nasuta, Diagnostic Genetic Sciences (May ’18)

Veronica Pleasant, Animal Science (May ’19)

Emily Taylor, Nutritional Sciences (May ’18)

Shaun Thomas, Allied Health Sciences (May ’18)

Kaliana Tom, Animal Science (May ’18)

Brittany Willis, Allied Health Sciences (May ’19)

Christopher Wojick, Ornamental Horticulture and Turfgrass Management (May ’16), Landscape Architecture (May ’18)

The returning Ambassadors, with their majors and expected graduation dates listed, are

Katherine Bergers, Allied Health Sciences (May ’17)

Brite Chuang, Pathobiology (May ’18)

Jessica Griffin, Environmental Sciences (May ’17) – Student Coordinator

Tessa Kell, Pathobiology (May ’17)

Evan Lyman, Turfgrass and Soil Science (Dec ’16)

Tulsi Mali, Pathobiology, Nutritional Sciences (May ’17)

Amanda Michelson, Animal Science (May ’18)

Chelsea Santa Lucia, Animal Science (May ’17)

Katie Speer, Animal Science (Dec ’16)

Yarden Tepper, Allied Health Sciences (May ’17)

By Patsy Evans