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Student Ambassador program sees expansion

By : Eric Coker

Dannia Hernandez and Yang Yang Zhao have been on campus for less than two months, but they’ve already seen enough to know that they want to spread the word about Binghamton to students back home.

Hernandez, from San Pedro, Calif., and Zhao, from Hangzhou, China, are part of a Student Ambassador Program that has undergone an expansion effort by the Admissions Office.

In the program, student ambassadors contact prospective students through holiday visits and letter-writing campaigns, while also offering hospitality at open houses and other campus events.

Cheryl Brown, director of undergraduate admissions, stressed how the program will increase the University’s outreach.

“Students are the best, most credible ambassadors in the world,” she said. “This will maximize our opportunities to reach out to students in the state, out of state and around the world.”

Joe Tiesi, assistant director of undergraduate admissions and campus visit coordinator, now oversees the program and began the expansion during the summer. Letters were sent to incoming freshmen telling them of the program; the group then tabled at University Fest and the Job and Internship Fair. The result: The program has doubled, as more than 60 new students have joined the organization’s core of about 50 members to promote the University.

“We asked our students to reach out to (prospective students),” Tiesi said. “From that, it’s grown. It’s almost like ripples in the water. Just tapping into the energies of talents of these outstanding students will be a huge asset for the University.”

Changes to the program include an organizational restructuring that features everything from event, marketing and logistics coordinators to blog and IM committee chairs. The ambassadors are divided into in-state, out-of-state and international teams. The teams each have a student leader and members then contact other University students from their home regions to see if more help can be obtained. Finally, the ambassadors speak to students and guidance counselors at home and gather names that Admissions can later contact. Training began last month and continues through the semester.

The program’s goal this year is 100 visits, Tiesi said. Last year, student ambassadors made 16 visits. Besides the recruiting efforts, the program will help the University as it deals with potential budget constraints.

“This is an incredible program that hasn’t been utilized in an effective way,” Tiesi said. “This will save us a lot of travel in Admissions.”

The restructuring also gives the ambassadors opportunities to take part in social activities and engage with each other in a positive and important way, Brown said.
Hernandez will coordinate the out-of-state team, which has students from Florida, New Hampshire, Maryland, New Jersey and other states. The sophomore plans to give a presentation to a Boys and Girls Club in California.

“I’ve really enjoyed being here,” she said. “Besides the programs it has, the students are all nice. It’s just a warm feeling for me being so far away from home.”

Soyeon (Kate) Kim, a sophomore from Korea in her third semester at Binghamton, oversees the global team of ambassadors from counties such as Turkey, China and India, and will lead a letter-writing campaign to prospective international students.

“My first semester as a volunteer, I saw so much of the potential that (the program) has to offer,” she said. “Then I wanted to become more active in it. There’s so much we can try to do for prospective students.”

Zhao plans to return to China over winter break or after the school year to promote the University.

“It’s a nice school with small classes, so the professor is able to communicate more,” the freshman said. “There are also a lot of good student clubs. It’s a great place to sit down and learn.”

The program will help Nick Forcier, international recruitment coordinator for Admissions, as he travels and meets with potential students. Forcier is headed this week for a three-week visit to Asia that includes stops in 10 cities in eight countries.

He said the ambassadors will complement the recruiting efforts of alumni, who can bring their experiences and knowledge to students and are key in out-of-state and international markets.

“We have a solid foundation of alumni who are willing to help,” he said. “They see the potential for growth in South Korea, Washington, D.C., and other places we’re trying to target.”

“They’re well organized and well structured,” Tiesi said of the alumni. “We tap into their talents very effectively, so now our goal is: How do we utilize our students to connect with other students in a similar and effective way?”

The ambassadors’ first volunteer event of the semester is the Super Visit weekend,
Oct. 4-6, in which parents and high school students get to see the campus. The program will be re-evaluated at the end of the school year, Tiesi said.

“There’s only so much one of us in Admissions can do,” he said, “but there’s so much more that so many students can do.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08