CALS students share common goal and passion for college
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) is supporting the University of Idaho’s goal to increase undergraduate enrollment by investing in the CALS Ambassador program.
The CALS Ambassador program draws together students from a variety of majors within the college. The team showcases what CALS has to offer, helps with recruiting efforts and strengthens alumni and donor relationships. Ambassadors are a competitively selected group of high achieving UI students who share a common goal — to promote CALS and increase student outreach.
The CALS Ambassador team became the first college recruiting team at UI in 1982 and remains the UI’s largest, receiving tremendous college support. The team traveled more than 5,400 miles and was in contact with 1,400 high school students last semester.
“If I had to categorize the ambassadors, I would say they are the cheerleaders of the college,” said John Foltz, UI special assistant to the president for agricultural initiatives.
Foltz and his wife, Barbara, established the first endowment for the ambassador team five years ago. The John and Barbara Foltz CALS Ambassador Endowment supports ambassadors serving in leadership roles and professional development activities.
“It’s a way to give back, a way to support students, a way to help them with their education and a way to support them in an activity that we think is really worthwhile,” John Foltz said.
The endowment also supports scholarships for ambassadors. In addition to participating in a weekly two-credit class, the students also receive a scholarship. New ambassadors receive $500, returning ambassadors receive $1,000 and ambassador officers receive $2,000 per academic year.
Another endowment is being created in honor of Al J. Lingg, former associate dean and director of academic programs.
This year, there are 24 ambassadors, four of which hold officer positions, including Margaret Elliot, president from Prosser, Washington; Cassidy Berry, director of communications from Kimberly; Kailyn Gady, director of finance from Rockford, Washington; and Austin O’Neill, director of recruitment from Stanwood, Washington.
The ambassadors travel in pairs to high schools in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California, usually completing two trips per semester. Ambassadors become acquainted with how to reach out to people in a professional setting and coordinate visits, an important professional development component of the course.
During high school visits, the ambassadors provide a presentation that highlights the different departments in CALS, and gives students a broad overview of degrees, possible career paths and what a prospective student can expect if they were to enroll in these areas. A science lab component is offered in soil, animal or family and consumer sciences.
“My favorite part of the team is helping students find their niche,” Elliot said. “Coming to college is really stressful, we’ve all been there. We’re not sure what we want to do or which college offers the best options for our personal needs. So walking students through that process and helping them find the right fit is really fulfilling.”
Ambassadors develop numerous lifelong skills, including how to network, communicate effectively, speak in public and give presentations. They also learn how to interact with people, develop teamwork skills and practice professionalism.
“They’re all high achieving, developed leaders and they’re all so different,” said Audra Cochran, CALS assistant director of recruitment and ambassador advisor. “They all have different career paths and goals in mind but then they can all come together for this common goal and get really excited about it. They are so appreciative of what this university and our college has given them.I think that’s really the coolest part — that common bond.”
“Audra is amazing,” Elliot said. “She knows what it’s like to be a college student and stress out about all your other responsibilities. So to have her just be so understanding is really helpful. She’s done a phenomenal job at keeping up with the pace of the team, and I think that we’re really headed to a great future.”
Story by Jean Parrella, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences