The First-Gen Ambassadors Program at Rutgers University–Camden

Dyron J Corley, Ed.D., Rutgers University–Camden  / The Center / January 27, 2021


COVID-19 has challenged institutions to reimagine what student engagement looks like in a virtual environment. At Rutgers University–Camden (RUC), the Division of Student Academic Success used the transition to virtual learning as an opportunity to develop new initiatives including the First-Generation Ambassador Program. The Ambassador Program, which was implemented in Fall 2020, trains and develops first-generation college students to create and facilitate programming and provide resources that would best meet the needs of first-generation students.

In this blog, we will share how we recruited, trained, and designed the Ambassador Program at RUC. We hope this information will be beneficial to you in case you want to create a program like this at your institution. 

Recruitment  

Our goal was to fill four Ambassador positions, with one dedicated to a bilingual student to provide content to Spanish-speaking stakeholders.

In the job posting, we asked for students to meet the following requirements:  

  • Be first-generation undergraduates who had completed at least 24 credits;  

  • Possess knowledge of how various student-serving offices at RUC operate;  

  • Be familiar with the needs of the first-generation college population at RUC; and  

  • Be willing to share their experiences of being a first-generation college student at RUC.  

Interview Process  

During the interview, we asked questions such as:  

  1. Why do you want to become a first-generation college student ambassador? What attributes or skill sets do you have that could benefit others?   

  2. How would you describe your college experience at Rutgers-Camden? Do you feel that you have been supported as a first-generation college student? Why or why not?  

  3. As a first-generation student ambassador, you will be expected to work independently at times on certain projects with little supervision. How will you ensure that projects are submitted on time and completed to the best of your ability?  

  4. (Bilingual applicants only) What message would you want Spanish-speaking parents to know about Rutgers University-Camden? 

Due to limited financial resources, we could only hire students who were eligible to receive Federal Work-Study.  

The Ambassador Program...trains and develops first-generation college students to create and facilitate programming and provide resources that would best meet the needs of first-gen students.

Training Protocol  

The Ambassadors attended a one-week virtual training where they participated in community building activities, reviewed job expectations, and gained a deeper understanding of their role. We took time to delve into topics such as:  

  • Leadership Inventory and Effective Communication (True Colors) 

  • Embracing Your First-gen Identity and Learning How to Tell Your Story 

  • Public Speaking and Having an Online Presence  

  • Diversity Training 

  • Program Development  

Program Structure  

The program supervisors meet with the Ambassadors at least twice a week for an hour and a half. Most of their work consists of ongoing training, designing, and facilitating programming for our first-generation students. Each ambassador was responsible for creating and facilitating one program during the fall semester. 

The First-Generation Ambassadors were provided with access to Canva and their own Microsoft Teams page where they could store projects and communicate with each other.  

Program Activities  

During the fall semester, the Ambassadors hosted two online events during First-Generation Celebration Week. They created a virtual storyboard where students, faculty, and staff could share what motivates them to be successful using words, photos, and/or a video. They also facilitated "1st Gen Interviews" on Instagram (IG) Live with college students, alumni, and faculty/staff asking them to share their first-generation college experiences.   

In the final week of the fall semester, the Ambassadors held three IG Live events. During these events, they discussed studying techniques, showed ways they can de-stress during finals, and hosted a Kahoot game night where students won prizes.   

Looking Forward  

This spring, the First-Gen Ambassadors will continue their work to support first-generation students at Rutgers University-Camden. If you are interested in learning more about their initiatives, feel free to follow them on Instagram here.  


For more information on Rutgers University–Camden ’s approach, please visit their website here.