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Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Builders of School Relations

2014-2015 Student Ambassadors // Photo courtesy of WWU Student Ambassadors

Western student ambassadors represent the school in efforts to connect with donors and the community.

Bragging about Western and the importance of being a Viking is all in a day’s work for a student ambassador. The Western Student Ambassadors represent their peers to raise money for scholarships and grants through dinners, events and philanthropy projects, Lead Student Ambassador Cloie Chapman said.

The organization is a section of the University Foundation Office, which is in charge of all private donations that come to the school such as scholarships and grants as opposed to the state funding Western receives.

By working to raise scholarship money and develop successful relationships with the Bellingham and greater Seattle areas, the Student Ambassador organization represents the value of Western students, Chapman said.

Among the projects Student Ambassadors is involved with is the “Western Stands for Washington” fundraising campaign, which went public this past fall, Chapman said.

The Western Stands for Washington campaign is the first comprehensive fundraising campaign the university has done, Hayes said.

“It has been a big learning curve for the people in University Advancement,” Hayes said.

Hayes said the goal of the campaign is to raise $60 million. Currently the University Foundation Office has raised a total of $51.1 million, according to Western’s website.

Two main pillars of the campaign are focused on raising money for research and for scholarships, Hayes said.

“We are pushing for the last little bit, which of course is the hardest because those who are regular donors have already donated,” Student Ambassador Katelyn Thompson said.

Senior lead Student Ambassador and scheduling manager Patrick Hayes said students involved with Student Ambassadors get to see the university in another way and make meaningful connections.

“I think Student Ambassadors are important to Western students because it gives them a sense of community,” Chapman said.

As part of the “Western Stands for Washington” campaign, this past fall the Student Ambassadors held a gala dinner in the side gym at the Wade King Student Recreation Center, which hosted donors, faculty and alumni who have been supporters of Western, Chapman said.

“It did not even look like the gym, I was so amazed and I even helped set it up,” Chapman said.

The Student Ambassadors’ job was to greet guests, provide coat check, give out name tags and generally make sure the event went smoothly, Chapman said.

Thompson’s favorite event the organization is involved with is the Christmas party that Western President Bruce Shepard hosts at his home every year.

The Student Ambassadors have also begun to work with Bellingham Parks and Recreation to organize volunteer work parties for the Student Ambassadors to clean up the community, Chapman said.

The work parties started last quarter, with two projects completed and plans for two more to be completed before the end of spring quarter, Chapman said.

“We really want to be in the community and contributing to it,” Chapman said.

One of the work parties was to clean up “crooked path,” a walkway off of High Street that leads down to a few homes.

The work parties are both beneficial to the community and to the ambassadors themselves because they allow time for the students to bond in a less professional environment, Chapman said.

Chapman said she would like to see the philanthropy work move on campus, but no concrete plans are in place yet.

Since being recruited two years ago, Chapman has learned communication skills, working in professional environments and managing pressure, she said.  A big part of the job is being able to talk to new people, which can be a challenge at first, Chapman said.

“There is time where you have to mingle and you just have to talk to people and it is just so intimidating to go up to a group of people, but I’ve gotten better at that,” she said.

In addition to the professional abilities the organization has taught her, Chapman said it provides great opportunity to network with people from Western as well as from Bellingham and Seattle.

Last November, the Student Ambassadors attended the Seattle Leadership Forum. Community members bought tables to attend the event and the proceeds went to Western, Chapman said.

“I met the CEO of the Mariners,” Chapman said.

Chapman said she only met Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln briefly but the event itself was an amazing opportunity.

Through these connections, Chapman said the community is more likely to hire Western graduates because they have seen what students from Western can accomplish.

“One of the best parts of the job is speaking with people who have been successful and have been in our shoes,” Thompson said.

The organization is always expanding and would like to see more diversity in the students who are hired, Chapman said.

In the past, the majority of students who have been hired for part-time positions have come from similar on-campus offices like the Alumni Association, phone-a-thon and the Star program, Chapman said.

Now the organization is trying to get the word out to more students about the opportunities available. Chapman said they have set up a Facebook page and have been tabling on-campus.

“Recruitment is based on student-to-student recommendations a lot more,” Chapman said.

The job is open to all kinds of students, no matter the field of study, Chapman said.

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