Hundreds of University of Delaware students vie each year for the opportunity to share their enthusiasm about the campus with others. The students–some just starting school, some about to graduate, with majors ranging from biology to business to education–hope to become one of the select few chosen each year as Blue Hen Ambassadors.
If successful, they then become part of a visible and vital program, active goodwill envoys who welcome prospective students and their families and show them what the campus has to offer.
They're the energetic young people you see leading groups of 15 or 20 teenagers and adults around campus, pausing in the lobby of Morris Library or on the sidewalk in front of the Trabant University Center to say a few words or answer questions. You can identify them by their blue Land's End jackets, with the Blue Hen Ambassadors name embroidered in gold.
The chosen students know they help shape the first impression visitors form of the University of Delaware.
Robert Snyder, admissions counselor and manager of the Visitors Center, oversees the Blue Hen Ambassadors. This year, 225 students applied for just 82 spots.
While an undergraduate at George Washington University, Snyder himself was a student ambassador. He brought some of what he learned from that experience to UD, where he earned his master's degree.
Snyder says he looks for several common skills when choosing ambassadors. "We're looking for someone with pride in the University," Snyder says, naming the number-one requirement. "They have to want to represent the University of Delaware.
"Pride is something that has to come from the inside," he says. "They have to want to communicate, and we like a sense of humor and a helping nature." Craig Frederick of Springfield, Pa., BE '98, worked as a Blue Hen Ambassador for three years. "I wanted to do this because I love the campus, and I wanted to persuade people to come here," he says.
Other qualities Snyder considers key for success are reliability and the ability to work independently. "These students never know what they will be asked, so they have to be able to practice diplomacy under pressure. We look for creativity and common sense," he says.
Students learn how to answer all kinds of queries from parents and touring high school students–from simple ones about housing to more sensitive topics. "Mothers want to know about safety issues and drinking issues," says Frederick. Admission policies also are a common question.
To get a wide field of applicants, the ambassador program runs ads in the student newspaper, The Review. Faculty also are asked to nominate students they believe would make good ambassadors.
The ambassadors go through a training program so they know the answers to likely questions posed by families touring the campus, but they are not given scripts. And, during the school year, the students attend monthly meetings of two to three hours where guest speakers teach them about various University programs so they can be highlighted during tours.
Most opt for a permanent, scheduled time for the tours they lead–a commitment of about two hours a week. But, during weeks when hundreds of high school students tour the University, everyone works a little extra. During open house weeks, more than 1,000 people can visit the University, and Blue Hen Ambassadors are called upon to help greet and mingle with the guests. Those work days can run five or six hours.
In addition to their hourly wages, Blue Hen Ambassadors get to keep their jackets. For more information on the Blue Hen Ambassadors, see www.udel.edu/BHA/.
-Cynthia H. Collier
Alumni of the original Blue Hen Host program are asked to contact Robert Snyder at (302) 831-8125 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.