This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Student Ambassador program at Portland State University. Student Ambassadors are an important piece of the admissions process for students and their families, as one of the first points of contact they will meet. But serving as a Student Ambassador is not just a great way to help prospective students – it is also a rich and rewarding experience for the Ambassadors themselves.
Kanani Porotesano, Assistant Director Campus Visitations and Events, has been working with Student Ambassadors for 13 years. Asked how the program has changed in the last 25 years, she says, “It’s definitely grown in size. Their first year, there were 10 or less students, and now next year, we’ll have 40. So the program has physically grown. When it was first created, the goal was more aimed at being able to highlight programs from the different colleges and schools, but over time it shifted. Now we are more focused on recruitment and connecting with the community, versus the administration at PSU.”
She loves to see the students grow professionally throughout the year, through the various challenges and opportunities the job provides.
“The professional development has always been a constant within the program,” she said. “It is a leadership experience: they get to network and communicate with people that they might not have otherwise had opportunities to connect with by being a regular student.”
One recent example of this includes a takeover on local news station KOIN during the PSU Showcase, in which Student Ambassadors appeared on television. They also are able to meet with prominent alumni, local business leaders, politicians, and many more. These are not only great networking opportunities, but chances to learn important professional skills and create connections that will help them in the future.
“Public speaking is another really big benefit, because our student ambassadors give campus tours every day, which is essentially giving speeches on a weekly basis to a group of people,” Kanani said.
These campus tours give Student Ambassadors the opportunity to share their personal experiences with prospective students – an invaluable part of the college application process. And as involved and knowledgeable student guides, Ambassadors are well-positioned to act as role models and sources of information.
One of the most fun things about being a Student Ambassador? Kanani says she especially loves the potlucks. “At the end of each term, we have a potluck and celebrate that we’ve made it through the term. It’s always really fun because it’s just sitting with community and eating good food and talking. This last one that we had for last term, we had different cultural foods;, the food was so good! Sometimes we’ll play music, sometimes we’ll watch a movie together in the background, sometimes we’ll play games. They are always a lot of fun.”
The position begins annually in the Fall term, but the application and training process begins in the Winter term prior. You don’t need to be a high-energy extrovert to apply, though! After the interview process – itself a great way to practice professional skills – future Student Ambassadors are trained and participate in team-building activities to connect with one another.
To learn more about the Student Ambassador program, a recent article highlights the experiences of current and former Ambassadors. You can also set up a chat with one of our current Student Ambassadors! They can help answer any questions you might have about applying and starting at PSU.