By Autumn Mott
Campus visits have proven to be the most effective way to recruit new students to Union. In fact, one of every three students who visits will enroll. And nobody is more important to a successful campus visit than the student ambassadors.
“I remember the first time I came to preview Union,” said Daniel Ikpeama, a 2017 music performance graduate. “At the time, it never really clicked for me—all that influence the ambassadors had—until I myself was an ambassador.”
Student ambassadors are the first faces prospective students see when they arrive on campus for Preview Days. Daniel Ikpeama and Meredith Nichols both worked as student ambassadors.
For the past seven years, Union has hosted five Preview Days events each school year. During Preview Days, high school juniors and seniors get to live with students in the residence halls, attend and interact in classes, talk with their future professors, participate in student body events, and explore the wonderful city of Lincoln.
“We’ve given a lot of thought as to why we do each thing, and what we hope to accomplish,” said Rachael Boyd, who is the campus visit coordinator for Union College and directs the student ambassador program.
The ambassadors are students recruited each semester from a variety of academic programs. They are trained on how to give campus tours, they become familiar with all aspects of the college, and they learn how to evaluate prospective students. At the biannual training there’s special emphasis on diplomacy and sensitivity to others.
“It was fun to hang out with the ambassadors when I visited campus,” said Ikpeama. “It was super fun to not only check out the campus, but also to go downtown Lincoln and see all the different things one could do.”
On Friday afternoons, Preview Days students explore downtown Lincoln. Along with the essential tour of the capitol building, students also visit a local ice cream shop in the iconic Haymarket, and see other places that Union students frequent.
“We want to show them that, no, Union isn’t in the middle of a cornfield. There are fun things to do,” said Boyd.
Although many Preview Days students are from academies in the Mid-America Union, there are visiting students from all across the country and around the world.
“Some of the people I met during Preview Days were major influences in my decision to come to Union,” recalled Ikpeama, “Of course I had friends who planned to attend and friends who were already here, but the ambassadors really solidified the decision.”
Ambassadors have an opportunity to share the reasons why they love Union. “It’s their job to help prospective students see what their own life is like at Union,” said Boyd. “They don’t sugarcoat things, but they help them see the best.”
The program comprises 12–15 ambassadors at any given time. Many students love the job enough to return, but Boyd hires five to seven new ambassadors every semester.
“As a student I was able to work as an ambassador for three semesters,” said Nichols. “Being able to meet new people and share my love of Union with them was a great opportunity. As an ambassador I learned about all the different programs on campus and saw the great variety of degrees Union offers to its student body.”
Each Preview Days event brings between 50–75 prospective students to campus, which allows the ambassadors quality one-on-one time with every student.
“I think my favorite part of being a student ambassador was talking to prospective students and their parents who were not Adventist,” recalled Nichols. “I was able to talk to them and give them my perspective as a student who comes from a different faith tradition.”
“I’ve built relationships with people, become friends with students I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I enjoyed representing the school,” said Ikpeama. “It gives you a really great opportunity to influence people, and when you see those people you told, ‘Hey, you should come here for this,’ and they do come here you realize, ‘Oh, I definitely had a hand in that decision!’”
During Preview Days, students often ask ambassadors about their favorite thing about Union. Oftentimes this question reveals reasons the ambassadors hadn’t thought about before. For Ikpeama, putting his answer into words changed his whole outlook on Union, “One of the biggest reasons I love Union is that pretty much everything, everywhere on campus is student led,” he explained. “And your professors will help you pursue your goals and give you all the resources to do so. You only need to ask. It makes a big difference in your experience when you realize you can do that.”
Ikpeama plans to pursue a master’s in choral conducting at the University of
Nebraska—Lincoln. “Anything I’ve tried to do, the faculty backed me 100 percent,” he said. “It’s helped me figure out job opportunities, and helped me find good experience! They’ve helped prepare me for the next step in my education—all because of that question while I was an ambassador.”
Nichols is completing an internship with the emergency manager in Custer County, Neb., and plans to pursue a master’s in global health. “Being a recent graduate, I look back on my time at Union, and a lot of joy-filled memories are when I was an ambassador.”
Preview Days invitation
There are five Preview Days weekends throughout the school year. If you are an out of state visitor, you could qualify for a $250 travel reimbursement. In order to receive the reimbursement, the prospective student needs to apply to Union, send in their transcripts 10 days prior to visiting, and have a 2.5+ GPA. You can learn more and register at www.ucollege.edu/visit.