Date of this Version
Student members of the NCHC Board of Directors often share information about successful student programs at their home institutions in order to promote student engagement in honors. We have found that a key component for student engagement is some type of “Honors Ambassadors” program to benefit not only honors students but also their programs and colleges. When the authors discussed honors ambassadors programs during the Students in Honors™ session at the 2008 and 2009 NCHC national conferences, numerous students expressed interest in learning more about such programs (NCHC Student Board). During these two conferences, students from Hillsborough Community College had an Idea Exchange table titled “Ambassador Programs: Cultivating a Community Environment in Honors,” where many honors directors requested information about starting or retooling their own honors ambassadors programs (Hillsborough). In 2007, West Virginia University addressed student ambassador programs in their presentation “Leadership Positions in Honors Communities: Students Helping Students” at the NCHC national conference (Miller and Cole). Additionally, Northern Arizona University reached out within its region and presented a paper titled “A How-To Guide: Honors Ambassadors” at the Western Regional Honors Council Meeting in 2007 (Hauk).
Since no two honors programs are alike, we will focus on the honors ambassadors programs at three institutions: West Virginia University, Hillsborough Community College, and Northern Arizona University. These three institutions vary in their approach to honors and in their structure, size, and student recruitment tactics. However, all have a strong commitment to furthering student engagement through honors ambassadors programs that enhance the honors experience for current and potential honors students.
Student leadership is important to fostering the goals of honors education. Honors ambassadors are integral to recruitment, providing prospective students with personal accounts about the program and answering questions from a current student’s point of view. Additionally, ambassadors encourage current honors students to become active participants in the honors experience. Ambassadors can be trained to inform and advise their peers about honors requirements, ways to become involved, leadership opportunities, and student life in addition to offering their personal feelings about the benefits of an honors education. This form of student leadership engages students to shape and to promote an honors tradition at their college or university. Additionally, honors ambassadors can alleviate some of the workload of often overworked honors staff, recruiters, and advisors.
In reaching out to prospective students, honors ambassadors demonstrate to potential students the value of lifelong learning. Most honors programs and colleges strive for a sense of community and support among the honors student population; honors ambassadors are able to demonstrate this commitment to the student population through personal interactions with the students. Ambassadors can also disseminate information about upcoming honors deadlines, events, and courses.