The Student Scholar Ambassadors are a select group of outstanding undergraduates who have participated in one or more programs that the Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) offers. Programs include academic research, creative activity, and/or applied to or received a prestigious fellowship/scholarship. Each year, the CUE receives applications from diverse groups of individuals in various disciplines interested in sharing their knowledge and experiences with fellow students. The 2021-2022 group ranges from English Literature, Rhetoric, and Cultural Studies, Economics, Political Sciences, and Dance Performance majors to Biochemistry, Biology, Pharmacy, Health Sciences, Psychology, and Computer Science majors.
Ambassadors serve as liaisons for the CUE at various events by highlighting how our office can be a great resource to our faculty and students. Additionally, they are available for one-on-one peer advising sessions to assist students with their initial processes of finding research and/or creative project mentors that suit their interests, find various scholarly opportunities, and be a helpful resource during these unprecedented times. Most students don’t know that these ambassadors are also motivated and passionate about research, both in their respective fields and spreading information to their peers. You can find them tabling at different events such as the Student Scholar Symposium, panel discussions, and classes to share the countless opportunities that the CUE has to offer to the undergraduate community.
One of the most important aspects of being an ambassador is to create an inclusive environment where people from all disciplines feel welcomed to contribute their work as a researcher. Alumni and first-ever Lead Student Scholar Ambassador Jessica Bocinski (’18) reflects on her experience “It was sometimes discouraging to find so many students who thought that they couldn’t do “research” when – in reality – they were already doing it! Students, especially those in the arts and humanities, are too quick to discount their work. As an ambassador, I tried to make it my goal to show students how valued their research or creative work can be at Chapman.”
Another responsibility of the ambassadors is to serve as a mentor for those getting started in their research journey. “I think the mentor-mentee relationship between Student Scholar Ambassadors and undergraduate students helps take the intimidation factor out of the initial research process. Current Co-Executive Director Tori Erickson (’22) explains an ambassador’s impact while she was getting started with research. “I recall during my freshman year, a mentor who was my general chemistry supplemental instructor and an ambassador at the time was on a research panel that I attended. During the panel, she explained how at first, when getting started, everything felt very foreign and confusing, but after taking a step back and calming down, she knew more than she had thought. Afterward, I talked to her about other difficulties I had been facing when I first started my research, and she explained how it was normal to feel the way I was and that I wasn’t alone. Her words of encouragement gave me the reassurance and confidence that I know more than I think I do.”
With school now being back in person, the Student Scholar Ambassadors have been operating at full speed with their new projects. Current Co-Executive Director Megan Shieh describes an exciting resource that may be available to the students in the near future, “Right now, we are developing an alumni network, and I think this is extremely valuable not just as ambassadors but for our target audience as well because I have this perception that research is not something that you check off the list of things to do as an undergraduate student. There is a lot to be learned from indulging in research, such as gaining critical thinking skills, problem-solving, or being able to finish your work on time. And with this alumni network, you can see how research has benefitted these successful students, and understand first hand how these skills that they gained as an undergraduate researcher have taken them today.”
She also explains how being an ambassador is not just about mentoring others but is an incredible learning experience. “I think being able to show people the value of research and connecting them to the people and resources that they need is extremely gratifying. I enjoy the student scholar symposium a lot because not only is this an opportunity to engage the students, but it’s also a learning opportunity for myself, thinking about the better strategies on how I can improve and where I can help others improve. I believe this shows that being an ambassador is not just about teaching and helping others, but a mutual learning experience.”
Serving as an ambassador may seem like a challenging task with all of the responsibilities, but students should know that it is also an extremely gratifying experience. “I absolutely loved my experience being a Student Scholar Ambassador, and it was truly a defining time in my undergraduate career. I met so many incredible faculty, staff, and students and advanced my own research while doing so. I feel like I was able to make an impact on the number of students involved in research & creative activity, so that is something I am proud of. I wouldn’t change anything from my experience; it was amazing.” Alumni and Co-Lead Alex Ballard (’20) says. “I was able to further my communication and presentation skills, which will undoubtedly be valuable to me as a lawyer in the future. I learned how to take information and convey it in an easily understandable way to audiences, which is important for nearly any career.”
Jessica Bocinski (’18) also explains how being an ambassador has impacted her career choices and aspirations. “Being an ambassador was one of the highlights of my undergraduate experience. It made me realize how much I enjoy working in academia and helping students access new resources or see their interests from new perspectives. I am able to continue doing those things now as the Registrar of the Escalette Permanent Collection of Art (an academic unit of Wilkinson College) where I help curate displays of contemporary art in the public spaces across campus and make art accessible to campus through tours, online resources, and events.” Jessica also explains how she still works closely with the current ambassadors. “I’m fortunate to also continue working with the Student Scholar Ambassador program as the new Alumni Director, where my goal is to create a networking community that will serve as a resource for all ambassadors before and after graduation.” Helping them spearhead the alumni network project.
The ambassadors are an incredible resource for any student looking to get involved with research and/or creative activity across all disciplines. Keep in mind that this remarkable group of fellow undergraduate students are here for YOU and to help YOU in any future endeavors. Thank you ambassadors for being amazing!