Ambassadors: Making the Difference
The student ambassador program at the College of Optometry is a crucial element of the recruitment and admission process. These ambassadors are volunteering many hours a semester to promote and represent the college of optometry. Each year over 150 students are interviewed for admission into the College of Optometry and the ambassadors play an instrumental role in talking with the applicants and their families. Director of Student and Alumni Services Nick Palisch feels, “these students are the face of the college and they are here to promote and give our guest a snapshot of what makes us different than other colleges of optometry.”
The ambassadors not only participate in the interview process, but they also assist with special events, including recruitment trips, orientation, conferences, optometry showcase events, and other university-wide events. The number of students who desire to be an ambassador continues to grow, “We have 43 ambassadors this year—and I believe this speaks volumes for the impression that prior ambassadors have played in creating an excitement to be involved in the ambassador program,” said Palisch. First year ambassador Fei Fu (’20) agrees, “I really appreciate the help and welcoming energy I received from the student ambassadors; and I would love to pay it forward. I hope to make new friends and let new coming students feel welcomed and appreciated just as I had.” Paying it forward is what makes UMSL Optometry stand out to prospective students and families.
The ambassador program went through a change in 2013 when, among other things, each ambassador was provided with a polo shirt and name tag to help create a unified atmosphere. “The students are often what makes the difference and having them wear a polo with our branding helps to establish a mark on the campus,” commented Palisch. In many cases, the ambassadors play a contributing role in applicant’s decision to attend UMSL Optometry, as student ambassador Genare Woofter (’20) comments, “The ambassadors at UMSL seem like a very close group and I believe I could add to the sense of family that the College of Optometry portrays to prospective students and is one of the main reasons I chose UMSL.” As the number of optometry schools continues to increase, it is important to look at ways to enhance the student experience and the ambassador program is one of many ways that the College of Optometry shines.
Another student, Luke Armstrong (’20) who also serves a student ambassador and an UMSL 3+4 student, comments, “I witnessed the positive impacts that student ambassadors can have on prospective students. By engaging with me in a friendly manner throughout these events, the student ambassadors answered many of my questions and portrayed the family-style educational environment that the UMSL College of Optometry prides itself on. I know personally that my interactions with the student ambassadors at these events induced a sense of comfortability and support that was important in making my decision to attend UMSL.” The impression that applicants, prospective students, and guests have while they are at UMSL Optometry creates interest and supports the family feel atmosphere.