By: Jessica Lisenba, Campus Coordinator
Do you have a small office with limited manpower? Have you considered student interns? One IEP campus has just launched the 4th year of their Study Abroad Alumni Ambassador program. Below are some tips and tools to guide you in successfully starting an alumni program and harnessing ambassador power at your own campus.
Ambassadors can assist with
- Study abroad fairs
- International Education week
- International visitors and student groups
- International exchange students
- Airport pickup
- Outreach to classes, student clubs, and organizations
- Peer advising
- Much more!
Developing the program
First, you will want to determine the design and intention of your program. Is it a university priority to increase study abroad enrollment? Are you looking to build campus support by having a stronger presence on campus? Would your incoming exchange students benefit from developing a peer-buddy system? Once you have determined the design, you’ll want to define the responsibilities of the office staff and student ambassadors. Build a handbook that sets clear guidelines, duties, and expectations for students and their supervisors alike.
If this is your first group, consider reaching out to faculty for recommendations. Try selecting candidates from a variety of majors, program locations, and program types (exchange, faculty- led, intern, etc.). Students who are plugged into campus life are also a plus!
Training and Preparing Ambassadors
Training is an important factor to having a successful group! Create a day long crash course or a multi-day orientation to prepare them for success. Consider inviting other areas on campus like Career Services and legal to help you with onboarding. Group meetings throughout the semester are also important. This keeps everyone on the same page, and allows everyone to collaborate together. Below are some training tips and topics to cover:
- Mock Advising: If you lack advisors, training your ambassadors to become peer advisors! Advising students on study abroad programs can open doors to many conversations. Be sure to provide FERPA training to protect students’ rights. Have your advisors do mock advising. Let them sit in on advising meetings, then let them try a few on their own.
- Professionalism: For many students, this internship may be their first job in an office setting. Even after training, students will still need a significant amount of guidance. Check-in with each student weekly. Ask them how they feel about their internship. What’s working? What’s not working? Continue to show your support.
- Individual Roles: In our experience, when students are given specific responsibilities that are different from their peers, they take pride in their duties and execute them passionately. One way to do this is to create committees. Many students have strengths, why not utilize them? For example, if you lack content and followers on social media, consider creating a social media committee. Determine what type of committees will benefit your office and assign a student intern to that role.
Benefits of an Ambassador Program
- Manpower: Ambassadors are the frontline of your office. If you find yourself saying “I need twelve of me” as a result of a never ending to-do list, let your ambassadors be those twelve. They will be advising, presenting at classroom presentations, reaching out to students, branding, and generating leads.
- Staying Relevant: Ambassadors help keep a pulse on where you need to be plugged in on campus. They provide the newest trends and the word on the street.
- Student Feedback: We all know how important feedback is. Your ambassadors can provide feedback on the study abroad application processes, office improvements, marketing materials, event ideas, and more.
- Connecting with larger campus community: Having ambassadors who are plugged into clubs and organizations is an excellent way to spread the word about study abroad.
Harnessing Ambassador Power
- Compensation: If you have a small budget (or no budget), consider awarding your interns with a small scholarship, stipend, or hourly pay. Students will also receive compensation in the form of office swag, free food, and awards. If you have no budget, be creative! You can offer credit for the internship. Additionally, they will receive letters of recommendation and additional letters as specific opportunities come up.
- Professional and Internship Experience: Most importantly, ambassadors will be able to put this experience on their resume as an paraprofessional experience. They will gain exposure to working in an office setting and have access to professional development opportunities. Students will have the chance to make connections with faculty and staff on campus and representatives throughout the community. Some examples of experiential benefits ambassadors have received in the past are being invited to participate in the Global Student Leadership Summit at the Diversity Abroad conference, speaking to the university’s Board of Trustees, and co-presenting at a Regional NAFSA conference.