Published on March 16, 2017
Every other Wednesday, 28 students meet in the Honors College long after it has closed for the night. The students are the Honors College Ambassadors and represent a wide array of majors, backgrounds and corners of campus. Aside from the College’s professional staff and faculty members, these student ambassadors act as the face of the Honors College.
The ambassadors’ main function is to assist with recruitment. Ambassadors attend Meet Mizzou Days, Black and Gold Days and weekly prospective student information sessions. Their goal is to offer incoming students real anecdotes from their time at MU and relay information about the benefits the Honors College has to offer.
Sophomore biological sciences and anthropology major Brooke Lappe says that the Honors College has given her a wealth of experiences and stories to share with prospective students.
“The Honors College has inspired me to challenge myself intellectually and socially,” Lappe says. “The relationships and experiences I have had through the Honors College have been the highlight of my college experience so far. It has been a welcoming community for growth and development in all areas of my life, and without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
Students who wish to become ambassadors must go through a rigorous application process, including answering essay questions and participating in group and individual interviews. From there, just a handful of students are selected.
Each member of the Honors Ambassador team had his or her own unique reason behind applying for the position.
Courtney Harris, a junior biochemistry major, was inspired to apply after her own prospective student visit prior to her freshman year at MU.
“After the Honors College session, I knew I was making the right decision to come here,” Harris says. “I had a strong desire to be a part of that process for prospective students, and also wanted to be involved in the college’s programming. It has been an incredible experience to watch the Honors College grow and evolve just as I grow as a student.”
Sophomore journalism and secondary education major Ryan Herrera applied to the program hoping to expose other students to the resources and tools for success that he has been able to access through the Honors College.
“It’s a huge resource at this school and a big help when it comes to grades,” Herrera says. “Being in the Honors College motivates you to keep your grades up, and it gives you opportunities to get more help in classes you might be struggling with. I want students to join the Honors College so they can enjoy these same opportunities that I’ve been blessed with.”
Other students, such as freshman journalism major Beckie Jaeckels, applied to the ambassador program based on aspects other than recruitment.
“I wanted to become a more active part in the honors community. I enjoy helping to stimulate conversation and communication between high-achievers,” Jaeckels says.
The Honors Ambassador program has existed within the Honors College since the 1980s. Honors College associate director Jenelle Beavers was an ambassador when she was a student at MU and when the ambassadors functioned almost exclusively as a recruitment resource.
“I decided to apply to be an Honors Ambassador because I wanted to share my positive experiences in the Honors College with incoming students,” Beavers says. “It was also a great way to get to know faculty and other honors students.”
Adviser Kristina Bradley took over as coordinator of the Honors Ambassador program in 2014 and revamped it to fill other needs. Outside of meeting with prospective students, ambassadors now plan social events to help honors students interact with one another and set up volunteer and service opportunities as a way to give back to the community.
“We wanted to strengthen that community building aspect and build an honors community outside of the residence halls,” Bradley says. “We’ve worked to solve that with the introduction of events like Geek Week.”
Geek Week started last year and has become an annual event that takes place during the fall semester. Ambassadors work in teams to plan community building events such as trivia tournaments, game nights, crafting afternoons, involvement fairs and “geek speak” sessions where professors talk to students about particularly “geeky” subjects.
This year was also the first time that the Honors College participated in Homecoming festivities. The Honors Ambassadors led the charge with that as well, creating banners, walking in the parade and painting Yellow Dog Book Shop’s windows for decorate the district.
Bradley has also implemented structural changes to the program, starting with the establishment of four formal leadership positions involving service, social event planning, recruitment and communications.
Additionally, ambassadors must attend mandatory Green Dot, Diversity Peer Educator and LGBTQ Center training at least every other year. Bradley created this initiative to make sure ambassadors are well-rounded and well-educated on the students they work with on a daily basis.
“We can only serve all students if we know who those students are,” Bradley says.
The program has plans to continue growing in the coming years to reach as many students as possible. While there will always be an emphasis on recruitment, the community building aspect has been the most exciting part for Bradley.
“Being able to create new traditions is so exciting,” Bradley says. “It’s nice to work with both high-achieving and high-energized students who want to make that happen.”