CCCU BestSemester Showcases Alumni Ambassador Program at Prestigious Conference

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Deborah Kim shares about Alumni Ambassador Program at NAFSA.
Deborah Kim shares about Alumni Ambassador Program at NAFSA.

ST. LOUIS, Mo.--The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities BestSemester staff recently shared its expertise in alumni relations during a prestigious gathering of international educators. 

Representatives of BestSemester submitted a proposal to present during the 65th annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. With the proposal accepted, several BestSemester representatives designed and built a four-foot by eight-foot poster display that featured the history and impact of BestSemester’s Alumni Ambassador Program to more than 400 international education institutions and organizations.

The Alumni Ambassador Program has innumerable benefits for both the alumni and prospective participants of BestSemester, and due to the presentation at NAFSA’s annual conference, has even more potential to spread the participation and success of cross-cultural programs to other colleges and universities around the country.

“We were able to address questions from other providers looking to market their programs more effectively,” said Meghan Donaghue, BestSemester’s international programs advisor and campus relations assistant. “We spoke with campus representatives who had questions about training and working with their own students. It was a privilege to share with international educator colleagues and encouraging to meet others who were excited about the program.”

The annual NAFSA conference serves to educate and unify international studies service providers. Its goal is to develop standards of excellence as college students study and work across the globe. The 2013 conference theme was, “Ideals and Impact in International Education.” NAFSA added new topics for poster sessions this year including, “Engaging Alumni in Recruitment and Reentry.”

The topic aligned perfectly with the CCCU’s BestSemester Alumni Ambassador Program, and NAFSA accepted BestSemester’s proposal to present because of its innovative approach to alumni engagement in recruitment. 

BestSemester’s Alumni Ambassadors are selected through an online application process and are trained and equipped with BestSemester materials with the task of increasing awareness on their home campuses of BestSemester’s off-campus programs. In the past, Ambassadors have organized panel discussions, coffee houses, art shows or even concerts to inform their fellow students about BestSemester programs. 

Ambassadors may also present in campus chapel services and classes, as well as set up information tables to promote the opportunity. BestSemester gathers feedback from Ambassadors regarding how their role of Ambassador may have affected reentry into their home campuses. 

Feedback over the last six years has supported this program as a model for student reentry, and the Alumni Ambassador Program has proven to be a successful recruitment method. In 2011, Noel-Levitz’s market research revealed “Peer to peer marketing is the best way to build awareness. More so than any other source of information, students consult with other students to learn about off-campus study programs.” Data shows that each campus Ambassador recruits an additional seven students each year. These 29 colleges and universities with an Ambassador currently generate 48 percent of BestSemester’s total off-campus enrollment.

“All students who return from studying abroad want to tell about it, [which is] a big part of processing their semester off-campus” said Donaghue, a BestSemester alumna herself. “By being an Ambassador, these alumni of BestSemester programs have a natural outlet to do this – they get to tell their stories to captive audiences and get some great experience in event planning and coordination.”

NAFSA judges selected the Alumni Ambassador Program to be presented because of the program’s success in recruitment and alumni engagement. CCCU Interim Vice President for Student Programs, Deborah Kim, and Donaghue presented the findings and instructed other international educators on the implementation of similar programs in their organizations.

“We would be thrilled to expand the Alumni Ambassador program in terms of the number of CCCU campuses and BestSemester alumni involved each year,” says Kim. “We are also looking at expanding to include alumni mentors who can be a resource to prospective and accepted students from multiple campuses as they prepare for participation.”

Kim and Donaghue were supported at the presentation by BestSemester Campus Relations Manager Lindsey Podguski and CCCU Graphic Designer & Production Coordinator Katryn Ferrance. 

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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 20 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.