At the University of Indianapolis, there are many different leadership opportunities for students. Symbolized by their red blazers, the students of UIndy Presidential Ambassador Program play major roles in many on and off campus events around Indianapolis.
Co-run by Associate Vice President for the Office of Advancement Stephanie Hays-Mussoni and Chief of Staff for the Office of the President Lara Mann, the Presidential Ambassadors are considered the “cream of the crop” when it comes to student leaders, according to Mann. While most of the ambassadors work at important events, such as graduation, they also take advantage of what President Robert Manuel has on his schedule, Mann said.
“If there is an Indianapolis chamber meeting where he’s going to be meeting some interesting people, we’ll try to see if any Presidential Ambassadors have a similar interest or a major that might connect with who he’s connecting with and bring them along,” Mann said.
Both co-chairs realize that at some of the events there are times when complicated questions may come up. Hays-Mussoni said that having the Presidential Ambassador Program provides them with students they know can get the job done when it comes to answering difficult questions.
“It [the Ambassador Program] gives us a pool of students [that] we know how they are going to respond in a situation. We’ve provided training for them, whether it be etiquette dinners or soft-skills training with networking and talking,” Hays-Mussoni said. “We know these students won’t be afraid if I email them and say, ‘Hey, can you be at this dinner on Friday?’ And it’s not a scary thing for them.”
According to the co-chairs, there are currently 36 to 40 students in various majors, working as ambassadors. According to the UIndy website, to become an ambassador, a student must be enrolled full-time, have at least a 3.0 grade point average, have completed two semesters of academic work at UIndy, have no disciplinary sanctions and have excellent communication and leadership skills. Another important step in becoming an ambassador is filling out a simple application and scheduling an interview with Mann and Hays-Mussoni. Both co-chairs agree that the interview is the most important step when trying to become an ambassador.
“The most value is in the interview, because I don’t need someone that is going to be 100 percent polished and ready to go out there,” Mann said. “I just want to see a spark, and I want to see potential and enthusiasm and passion.”
Senior athletic training major Kari Schulte has been an ambassador since the end of her sophomore year in 2014. While Schulte applied for the position, she said that she knows of other ambassadors who were nominated by faculty or staff members at UIndy. Schulte said that there are many benefits to being a Presidential Ambassador.
“This is all on a volunteer basis, so we get a lot of volunteer experience. Another perk is that obviously you get to know the president really well, and he [President Manuel] will write you a letter of recommendation upon graduation,” Schulte said. “That’s something you probably can’t get at many other universities.”
Schulte also said that she enjoys being an ambassador because of all the opportunities that are available to her.
“We have a lot of speakers that come in. Like this year, they taught us how to make elevator speeches or pitches about yourself. We have leadership-building activities like that and a lot of communication and networking,” Schulte said. “It’s skills that I would have never gotten in any other organization on campus or any other degree.”
Mann hopes that the Presidential Ambassador Program at UIndy is helping students not only with their academics, but also with their outside lives as well.
“I am hoping that it [the program] is helping to create, with everything else that goes on here, good citizens that go out into the world and want to be active in their communities. I’m hoping that it helps students feel very connected and tied to the university, like it’s always their home,” Mann said. “Hopefully [the program is] connecting them with people who can help them as they make their entry into the real world.”
Hays-Mussoni said that she hopes the program continues to grow every year.
“It is a tradition, and we have a lot of traditions, and this is one that has been a lasting one and continues to expand and evolve just as the campus does,” Hays-Mussoni said. “I hope that it will continue to be something that these students look upon fondly.”