Spreading Beach Pride
Story by Jessica Jacobs
I’ll never forget my first day as a President’s Ambassador. It was a formal dinner in the Miller House’s green backyard and I was looking for my nametag on one of the seven round tables dressed in pearly cloth. Then I saw it — right next to Long Beach State President Jane Close Conoley’s.
I was already worried about figuring out what fork to use, but then I had to think about etiquette while literally being at President Conoley’s side. If I’d been a cartoon, you’d have seen me running frantically in circles hoping to find some tangible version of confidence.
During the dinner, I was quiet at first and let the experienced ambassadors lead the conversation. The talk consisted of policies and professional manners.
It wasn’t until President Conoley spilled some water that I relaxed and realized I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. Conversation soon flowed from professional to personal topics. I was building rapport with the president of our university, and on my first day!
What are President’s Ambassadors?
When I tell people I’m a President’s Ambassador, they often ask me what that means. They’ve seen us around, but more often than not, they confuse us with other campus groups.
Here’s our official mission: We represent the university and the university president in a professional manner, serve the campus and community’s needs, promote an understanding of diversity, and generate an environment that develops our personal and professional life.
But there’s more to it than that. President’s Ambassadors also serve as liaisons between the university administration and the student body. If students want to make sure their opinions reach the president’s office, or if they want to raise awareness in the administration to an issue on campus, they can reach out to a President’s Ambassador, in person or through social media.
“CSULB students should know we are here to unite the campus and provide our volunteer services,” President’s Ambassador Stephanie Argent says. “We are open to supporting all students and welcoming all types of people to our organization.”
And sometimes, when there’s a controversy on campus, President Conoley goes to the ambassadors for advice. “I benefit from their insights,” she says. “They are closer to the experiences of students than I, and they can enlarge my understanding.”
Every President’s Ambassador is required to participate in five service events and two social events. This past year, I’ve taken part in the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade and volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House and the Interfaith Blessing of the Animals.
“I love being able to say, ‘Can an ambassador get that done?’ because I know I have a group of student colleagues I can count on to be their best selves in every situation,” President Conoley says. “I am proud to see them handling many events and reaching out to the greater community.”
We also attend biweekly student-led meetings and work together on committees organizing social media and recruitment, on-campus service, off-campus service and social events.
When an ambassador joins the program, they are making a yearlong commitment. That may sound scary, but it’s manageable.
“Everyone [in the group] is juggling work, school, clubs, internships and so much more,” President’s Ambassador Rhyane Shanley says. “With a variety of events offered to President’s Ambassadors, it’s manageable to schedule your volunteer events to get the best experience.”
And in the end, it’s worth it. Ambassadors benefit from opportunities and professional development and create lifelong, supportive friends in this program.
“President’s Ambassadors changed my life because I feel more self-confident, self-sufficient and aware of my privileges,” Argent says. “I have a strong sense of Long Beach pride now.”
The program has changed my life, too. Since that first banquet, I have gained professional skills, grown personally and made friends with inspiring people while working side-by-side with other student leaders, President Conoley, and our adviser, Rosalinda Oliva.
“Every ambassador is a leader who strives to be better each and every day,” Ambassador Brianna Guzman says. “They encourage and inspire one another to always do their best. Ultimately, the culture is one of true friendship and unconditional support.”
Want to Become a President’s Ambassador?
Applications for the group open annually in February. Candidates must have a passion for service and leadership and have one remaining academic year while being enrolled in at least six units. Applicants are reviewed in a three-step process:
Phase 1: Candidates fill out a formal application, answer short answer questions, and submit a resume and two letters of recommendations (one from a Long Beach State professor/staff member and one from an off-campus community member with whom they’ve volunteered).
Phase 2: Candidates undergo formal interviews with the adviser and five current President’s Ambassadors.
Phase 3: Candidates must introduce themselves and connect with all current President’s Ambassadors in a professional environment.