BestSemester Alumni Ambassador Program Gives Alumni a Forum for Sharing Their BestSemester Experiences

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Messiah College reunion of USP alumni - Andrea Haskins
Messiah College reunion of USP alumni - Andrea Haskins

It’s a common scene at BestSemester programs around the world. The semester ends, tearful good-byes are shared between newfound friends, and students head home. The students who aren’t immediately graduating return to campus the next semester full of stories about their BestSemester experience and bursting at the seams to share them with their peers. But how?

For the past five years, BestSemester has offered a platform for program alumni returning to their campuses to share their stories and encourage other students to consider studying abroad or off-campus. The BestSemester Alumni Ambassador Program was created in the fall of 2007 by partnering with 10 program alumni who were returning to their campuses. Since then, the program has grown to include at least 20 students representing BestSemester on their home campus each semester, for a total of 40 alumni involved per year. 

BestSemester Campus Relations Assistant, Meghan Donaghue, recruits and works with the alumni ambassadors. “We are encouraged with the number of qualified applicants each semester; it’s very exciting to see so much enthusiasm from our alumni to share their stories and spread the word back on their campus.”

This fall, Kylie Stevens and Travis Dodd were selected to be co-ambassadors at William Jessup University in Rocklin, Calif. Stevens and Dodd both participated in the Middle East Studies Program during the spring 2012 semester.

“Traveling to the Middle East allowed me to open a new door into a place that was only a mystery to me before,” Stevens shared.  “Being [at MESP] made me see so much in our world that is impacted by others, and I learned how we impact others.”

Alumni Ambassadors are tasked with just one responsibility: host at least one event on campus to share about the types of BestSemester programs that are offered. When Stevens received the notice that BestSemester was looking for ambassadors, she knew it would be a perfect fit. 

“Every time someone asked if I recommended studying abroad I responded with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’”

William Jessup University is currently making efforts to encourage more of their students to study off-campus for a semester, so the university was enthusiastic when approached about having BestSemester Alumni Ambassadors on campus. 

“Kylie and Travis are both excellent students who have a passion to learn, and the BestSemester program was one of the best ways to integrate that passion with a study abroad experience,” said Tina Petersen, William Jessup University registrar. “We who support the BestSemester programs know what an incredible experience it will be. However, Kylie and Travis have been able to express that experience to their peers in a way that I can’t.” 

Stevens and Dodd at William Jessup have already made great strides this semester by hosting an informational table after chapel services on campus each week.

At Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio, Bethany Parks is now in her third semester working with the Alumni Ambassador program after studying at the Uganda Studies Program in spring 2011.

“I had an absolutely amazing experience with BestSemester,” Parks shared. “I feel very passionate that students should spend a semester abroad to enrich their knowledge as well as open their eyes to people, cultures, and other opportunities that may never arise again.”

Eastern University student and fall 2011 India Studies Program alumna Natasha Yoder is planning an event this fall to facilitate conversations between BestSemester alumni at Eastern, which is located in St. Davids, Pa., and students who have questions about the BestSemester programs. 

“I chose to apply to be an ambassador because I really enjoyed my semester at ISP and wanted to encourage other students to take the opportunity to study abroad with BestSemester,” Yoder said. “I still get excited when I talk about my time in India, so I am always happy to talk with others about my experience and answer any questions about my time there.”

Andrea Haskins, a spring 2012 India Studies Program alumna, admits that she would have shared her BestSemester experience and urged fellow students at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., to study abroad no matter what. “I wanted to be an ambassador so I could have access to more resources and be a part of the community of ambassadors.”

At William Jessup, Stevens and Dodd look forward to sharing about BestSemester opportunities at a missions fair later this month. They are planning an event to highlight stories from other BestSemester alumni at William Jessup while showcasing foods from areas like the Middle East and Uganda, where several of the students have studied. 

Petersen, the William Jessup registrar, looks forward to supporting the alumni ambassador campus team this semester. “Having an Alumni Ambassador is the one of the best ways to promote what great opportunities are available to William Jessup students,” she said. 

Student applications for spring 2013 Alumni Ambassador positions will soon be available. If your campus has an interest in working with a student as a BestSemester Alumni Ambassador, please contact Lindsey Podguski, campus relations manager (lpodguski@cccu.org). 

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About BestSemester: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities offers 12 off-campus study programs, collectively branded BestSemester®, which expand learning opportunities for students from CCCU campuses and are designated as culture-shaping or culture-crossing programs. Culture-shaping BestSemester programs are: American Studies Program (Washington, D.C.); Contemporary Music Center (Nashville); Los Angeles Film Studies Center (Los Angeles); and Washington Journalism Center (Washington, D.C.). Culture-crossing BestSemester programs are: Australia Studies Centre; China Studies Program; India Studies Program; Latin American Studies Program; Middle East Studies Program; Programmes in Oxford; and Uganda Studies Program. Visit www.bestsemester.com for program details.

About the CCCU:  The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 172 intentionally Christ-centered institutions around the world. The 118 member campuses in North America are all fully-accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences. In addition, 54 affiliate campuses from 19 countries are part of the CCCU. The Council’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit www.cccu.org.