Tour Guides and Charlie Cart Rides: Meet USD's Student Ambassadors
Since around 2010, students in the USD Student Ambassador Program have played an essential role in admissions and recruitment at USD. They serve as mentors to prospective students, represent the university at campus events like Coyote Visit Days, Fall Open House and Coyote Registration, and lead campus tours.
“In some ways, they're the backbone of admissions because they give the majority of campus tours,” said Jeanne Haar, advisor of the USD Student Ambassador Program.
Touring campus can be a make-or-break experience for high school students who are in the midst of choosing their future college. That’s why it’s crucial a visit to USD’s campus is the best experience possible – Haar’s team of students makes sure to provide that.
“We have our visiting students for such a short period of time, and it is absolutely imperative to put our best foot forward,” said Haar. “We take it as an honor that students take time to come and visit us. Our student ambassadors take their job very seriously; they have a great love for the University of South Dakota and love to share that with our visitors.”
Student ambassadors have a unique role in the admissions process, as they themselves are students, allowing them to offer an authentic and current perspective about life on campus.
“Many times, visiting students put a lot of value into what the ambassadors say because it’s coming from people who are close to them in age,” said Haar. “Instead of giving a historical view of the university on tours, like mentioning the years buildings were built and things like that, our student ambassadors give a personal perspective of campus. They talk to our visitors about things like where they like to study as a student or how they use different resources on campus, which helps our visiting students visualize themselves here at USD."
Not only do the student ambassadors enhance the admissions process at the university, but they also enhance their own resumes by gaining valuable leadership skills that will prepare them for success after graduation.
“Our ambassadors develop leadership skills, and they learn to think on their feet,” said Lainey Pomrenke, a rising senior studying health sciences and USD Student Ambassadors president. “With our executive board, students have the opportunity to hold leadership positions. Also, leading a campus tour on their own is a great way to develop valuable leadership skills.”
With a program of about 80 students, USD’s student ambassadors come from all corners of campus. The program is open to all undergraduate students, with the only major requirements being a minimum 2.5 GPA and a love for the state’s flagship university.
We asked a few current students about their jobs as ambassadors, what they love about USD and how this experience is preparing them for life after graduation – and this is what they had to say.
What is your favorite part about being an ambassador?
Zach Rapp (senior, marketing): My favorite part about being an ambassador has been meeting new people. Even if I’ll never see them again, it’s fun to learn more about them and hear their stories when I give them a campus tour.
Rebecca Kelley (junior, music performance): I love giving tours. Meeting families and future students from all over has given me a greater perspective on the world. I have given tours to students of all backgrounds. Hearing these student’s stories has opened my eyes to so many different life experiences. I am so grateful for a job where I can regularly meet and get to know new people.
Kennedy Bietz (junior, chemistry and biology): My favorite part about being an ambassador is seeing how different each ambassador is compared to one another, yet all of us are part of this organization to help introduce prospective students to life as a Yote.
How will this experience prepare you for life after graduation?
Eli Cheever (senior, nursing): Being a student ambassador has helped me develop organizational, management and people skills that I will be able to apply to my experiences post-graduation.
Hattie Giblin (senior, kinesiology & sport management): This experience has taught me to branch out and try new things. I never thought I would be working for the admissions office at USD, but here I am as a senior in college holding the position of group visit coordinator. I will be forever grateful I went outside of my comfort zone and took on this job.
Bietz: I think my experience as a student ambassador has helped prepare me for my future by teaching me vital communication skills. Through this organization I have learned how to connect with students and families, I have become efficient in my delivery of important information, and I have become comfortable communicating with my supervisors.
What is your favorite thing about USD?
Cooper Gourneau (senior, business administration): My favorite thing about USD is how the campus is big enough where you can always meet new people, but small enough where you don’t feel like just another face in the crowd. I think the size of the campus and the town of Vermillion are what makes USD feel like a big school and a small friendly town.
Cheever: My favorite thing about USD is how easy it is to get involved on campus and connect with other students.
Giblin: The people. The individuals on this campus, both peers and professors, make the experience worthwhile. The University of South Dakota has become my second home. I have made lifelong friends that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
What’s a fun fact about USD that you mention on every tour?
Cheever: I never miss an opportunity to point out that our rock-climbing wall is taller than the one at South Dakota State University.
Giblin: The shortest stoplight in South Dakota. The stoplight between North Complex and Patterson Hall was initially put into service to get students to their 8 a.m. classes on time. However, after the stoplight was put into place, students were still late to class. I tend to lean toward the problem being more of a sleeping-in issue, but what do I know.
Bietz: My favorite ‘fun fact’ to mention on my tours is that Old Main has burned down three times. I know this isn’t the most fun fact, but a majority of my tour families find this information to be incredibly interesting. If you were curious, the first fire arose from a fire which started in a wood burning stove in the basement. The second fire was allegedly arson and the third was an electrical fire.
What’s it like to be licensed to drive a Charlie Cart?
Rapp: It's fun to drive around campus instead of walking, so I'd say it’s a major perk.
Gourneau: It’s pretty fun, I usually try to grab one of the faster Charlie Carts so can get around a little bit quicker.
Kelley: Truly, a greater honor is not easily obtained.