For nearly 40 years, a polished group of Mercer students has served as the picture of hospitality and professionalism at University events. Wearing their signature blazers, Mercer Ambassadors act as representatives of the student body while interacting with alumni, donors and friends.
The program was established by the Alumni Services office in 1983.
“A select group of sophomores, juniors and seniors are first recommended to us by deans, professors, staff members and fellow ambassadors. After these recommendations and a rigorous interview process, we invite students into the program,” said Ceallsach Crouch, coordinator of alumni programs.
“The nominees for this program are hand-selected through the University. We are lucky to have students who excel academically, professionally and socially within the Mercer community.”
Generally, about 20 Ambassadors serve at a time. They greet and assist guests at staple events like Homecoming, Executive Forum and home football games, and sometimes their presence is requested at other functions, like building dedications, inductions and community receptions.
The Ambassadors develop mutually beneficial relationships with alumni and friends of the University, while learning skills related to professionalism. They are encouraged to volunteer at events related to their majors, and they are often seated or connected with people working in the fields they are pursuing, Crouch said.
Mercer Ambassadors President Caroline Jackson, a senior accounting major, said she was able to sit with some accountants during an Executive Forum event and spoke with a recruiter for an Atlanta accounting firm while volunteering at the field house for a football game.
“One of the greatest benefits of this program is the chance for Ambassadors to establish professional connections with people who were once in their shoes,” Crouch said. “They really get to understand what comes next after Mercer and how to be engaged as alumni. They can benefit from the team building that we do. We want to act as a foundation for students so that they can begin their journey into that professional realm.”
Students especially enjoy volunteering for Homecoming Half Century Club events, attended by alumni who graduated 50 or more years ago, said Jill Kinsella, associate vice president of Alumni Services and executive director of the Alumni Association.
Junior Amelia Westmoreland, Mercer Ambassadors president-elect and a chemistry and business management double-major, said she loved giving the alumni tours and hearing their stories about Mercer and how much it has grown. Jackson was able to meet and bond with some women who, like her, are also members of Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
“We have many alumni who continue to come back after all these years,” Kinsella said. “They love seeing these young people, and the students love hearing their stories.”
Students get experience speaking and having dinner with people they’ve never met before. This comes easy for some students, but for others, the Mercer Ambassadors program helps them to grow and become more comfortable in networking situations.
“They’re willing to get outside their comfort zone if it means representing this University they love,” Kinsella said. “We invite students to apply, but at the end of the day, they volunteer their service. We end up with the ones who really love Mercer.”
Westmoreland said the program has helped her grow as a leader, improve her communication skills, and forge connections that could be useful in her career.
“I’ve been very lucky to grow in this program, and I’m super thankful for it,” she said. “I’m excited to see what this next year brings to us and to see how much I can grow and how much this program can grow.”
Kinsella, who is also an alumna, was a member of the first class of Ambassadors in 1983 and recalled the buzz and excitement that surrounded the new program. After all these years, the program has remained strong because of the rich networking and service opportunities it offers.
“(The program) was created with quality and intention and with a clear mission to choose students who could represent the student body well to our donors, alumni and all the University constituents,” she said. “The mission of the program has remained very much the same. I think it was thought out well from the beginning. We still attract high-caliber students.”
The orange blazers that the Ambassadors wear are a relatively new tradition for the program. Originally, the jackets were navy blue and paired with gray pants or skirts, Kinsella said. Jackson said it was the orange blazers that originally caught her eye and made her want to learn more about the program.
“The blazers are coveted,” Crouch said. “If you see an orange jacket, you can infer that is a Mercer Ambassador on their way to an event. They’re a hallmark for our program. Everyone loves them and enjoys them. With that jacket comes a notion of professionalism and hospitality.”
And while all of the Ambassadors are dedicated, a few receive special recognition each year. This year, senior Ashley Stephens received the Ambassador of the Year Award, and sophomore Allan Hegedus won the New Ambassador of the Year Award. In addition to Jackson and Stephens, the other Ambassadors graduating this year are Grace Bowman, Spencer Laue, Luke McBrayer, Addison Mecredy, Amelia Patrick, Karrie Spain and Hunter Tinker.
Incoming Ambassadors for the 2022-23 year include Derrick Buie, Kayla Chambers, Shannon Dougherty, Henry Keating, Shaw London, Carmen Mueller, Alana Murray, Savannah Richie, Olivia Scott, Satchel Sumner and Bree Withrow.