Program unites students from same home states

The Ambassador Program, which links freshmen with upperclassmen from their home state, has doubled its membership in its second year at GW.

The number of ambassadors in the program has jumped from 100 to more than 200 this year, said Raina Lenney, retention assistant of Academic Planning and Assessment. The University also extended the program to include students living at the Mount Vernon Campus.

Cheryl Beil, director of Academic Planning and Assessment, began the program two years ago to form bonds between incoming freshmen and upperclassmen from the same states, particularly those who live outside the mid-Atlantic region, she said.

More than anything, the Ambassador Program has been a chance for me to meet people from my state and get a chance to discuss the few things I really miss about home, said Maine junior Sean Caron. It’s nice to know that people from small states like Maine or Vermont, who care more about spending a day skiing than buying a fresh pair of Diesel jeans, exist at GW.

By linking freshmen with upperclassmen from their respective states, the program aims to alleviate the struggles associated with leaving home and attending college using a personal approach, Lenney said.

The program begins in the summer, when all incoming freshmen from outside mid-Atlantic states receive a phone call from an ambassador to let them know that an upperclassman from their state is available to ease the transition from hometown to college. Throughout the course of the year, social events are scheduled to extend the relationships between freshmen and their ambassadors.

The program held its first event this year, a dinner at the University Club, in September for freshmen to meet students from their states.

Caron said members of the Maine constituency get together for lunches about once a semester.

It’s always enjoyable, he said.

Although the University targets distant states for admissions, Lenney said the program centers on helping students adjust, rather than attracting students from different parts of the country.

The program especially helps younger students who have not completely adjusted to the city atmosphere, Caron said. My home state of Maine and most other ambassador states are very different from our urban campus here at GW. I have always been able to provide freshmen with information about local ski areas, bike trails or camping areas, which people form rural areas tend to miss.

Lenny said it is in the University’s best interest to keep the students here, but Beil said the interest is very much on the students’ behalf.

The motivation is based on keeping the students in school, making sure they’re graduating, and making sure that they’re happy, Lenny said.

One of the program’s goals is to increase the responsibilities of the ambassadors and the time they spend with the freshmen, Lenney said. The program allows the ambassador to decide how much time is spent with the freshmen.

Officials said they worry that as a result of infrequent mandatory social events and the onset of school, many ambassadors fail to keep in touch throughout the school year. The program hopes to remedy this by creating more social events and increasing the responsibility of the ambassadors in future years.

The program has been very valuable in establishing a network of friends from my state who share common interest and problems, Caron said. These relationships with students, faculty and staff have been important when I needed a helping hand with something – anything from a question concerning affairs at GW to cheap flights home – or simply social purposes.

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