May 15, 2001
The mission of the Student Ambassador project is to develop outreach and recruitment activities for underrepresented minority students in Washington State. Currently enrolled University of Washington (UW) minority students are hired to plan informational events for minority students and their families, to visit schools across the state and actively recruit students, and to provide support for minority student programs on the UW campus. Now in its second year, the project has been expanded to include twenty-two Student Ambassadors and two graduate student assistants.
The Student Ambassador project is supervised by staff in the UW Offices of Minority Affairs and Admissions and is funded by appropriations from the UW central administration.
Seventeen of the twenty-two Student Ambassadors participated in group interviews to obtain their perspectives on the impact of the project, thoughts about cultural factors that influence outreach and recruitment efforts, and suggestions to support project improvement. Both graduate assistants were interviewed about their responsibilities and perceptions on their roles. All qualitative data was analyzed inductively to form response categories and summarize the conversations.
Student Ambassadors are pro-active in their outreach and recruitment mission. They conduct all phases of program planning, organization, and evaluation for large events, high school visitations and one-on-one recruitment efforts. As current UW students, Student Ambassadors understand the perspectives of present high school students and work to eliminate barriers they may encounter in the process of admission. Student Ambassadors also support the work of a variety of UW minority student organizations.
Student Ambassadors feel the need to reach high school students because minority students may not be fully informed of admissions criteria and the advanced preparation required for college entrance. Because high school counselors often must focus their attention on more critical situations at their schools, the ambassadors provide needed assistance. The ambassadors also see themselves as role models for minority students who may not think they have the grades to be admitted to the UW, and they help minority students understand the importance of a college education. Often the goals of minority students center around getting a job and earning money for their families.
Cultural influences in minority student families vary according to race. For Native American students, there is a sense of displacement and losing position in their communities if they leave to pursue a college education. For African American students, recruitment dynamics are tougher and there sometimes are challenges to simply establishing rapport. For Latino students, many may not be legal residents and their families need the economic support that working provides.
High school students ask Student Ambassadors if the UW really embraces diversity. "Are minorities really accepted here?" According to the ambassadors, there seems to be a gradual change in UW campus climate, but they also were quick to provide examples of situations that need to be improved. The UW needs to be a place where minority high school students can see themselves attending and feel that they belong.
The majority opinion of the student ambassadors is that their project is the best outreach and recruitment effort on campus. Student Ambassadors are vocal in their suggestions for support to improve the project. The most critical support needed is a sense of respect from UW administrators, faculty, and staff. Student Ambassadors are more than UW students, they are leaders in local and national organizations which are dedicated to recruiting additional minority students to further the effort of true cultural diversity.
Student Ambassadors seem to feel that the project might have grown too large too fast and that they find themselves doing what they were not hired to do. "We're doing the University's job for them." Although Student Ambassadors state that there is no job description, somehow it has evolved and now includes much more than before. The growth of the project also affects the office space dedicated to the ambassadors. Currently not all of them can be in the office at the same time because there is not enough room, and they need tables and areas in which to meet, besides more computers.
Student Ambassadors see the need for permanent funding to ensure continuation of the project. It is expensive to organize outreach activities, to transport high school students to campus, and to feed and house them while they participate in programs. It takes money to recruit students, and ambassadors feel if the UW is serious about improving the diversity on campus, then their program should be institutionalized.
Two major conclusions can be drawn from the evaluation:
Copyrightę 2001 UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON Office of Educational Assessment