Hannah Veitkus, president of USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Ambassador organization, and Sarah Bradtmueller, vice president, recently joined USF Tampa Ambassadors on a trip to Charleston, North Carolina, for a weekend leadership conference. The retreat served as an exchange of ideas and traditions to promote networking among Ambassador programs, forging new connections and enhancing the overall system.
Ambassadors are an elite group of young professionals that bridge the gap between students and alumni, serving the university in many capacities, such as adding value to USF Presidential events, community activities and Alumni Association events. The role of USFSM Ambassadors is to represent the student body and spirit of USF. They are an organization sponsored by the USF Alumni Association founded in 1979 on the basis of leadership, service, community and University involvement as well as educational advancement.
“I am very proud of the way our ambassadors represented our University at the conference,” said Jay Riley, director of alumni affairs. “They arrived back from the conference with new knowledge, tons of spirit and great ideas they wanted to share with the whole group. The fact that they have already implemented programs and practices they learned at the conference shows the USF Sarasota-Manatee community how committed these students are about strengthening this vital service organization for the benefit of USF.”
According to Veitkus, “The social and business styled events at the leadership conference kept the weekend diverting.” Events included fun lip-syncing competitions between schools and more than 50 breakout sessions.
Ambassadors shared successful ideas from their schools with each other, networked and socialized. During their free time, student ambassadors also had the opportunity to tour the Citadel Military College and the city of Charleston.
“This conference was a real eye-opening experience for the USFSM Ambassador program,” said Veitkus. “Not only did it reveal everything that our program would be capable of a few years down the road once we’ve expanded, it also helped us to fine tune and restructure the organization to get it on the path to being as well known and prestigious as it can be.”
Since the retreat, new processes have been instated to aid in reconfiguring USFSM’s growing Ambassador program. There is a new Leave of Absence option for busy upperclassmen or students studying abroad, derived from University of West Florida’s organization. Also, meetings are now designed to promote bonding among members with simple ways to recognize accomplishments achieved.
“We came up with little ways to promote positive relationships between the members of our Ambassador family,” said Veitkus. Participants are encouraged to keep communication between the Ambassador family at a constant flow, giving more consistency and professionalism to the organization. Applications were also redesigned to make the process more formal, allowing leaders to know applicants better before making decisions. With the help of some Tampa Ambassadors, a point system was instituted to help keep track of member’s participation in events, meetings and other functions where Ambassadors volunteer.
The Ambassador program recruits the best and brightest of USFSM students and showcases them in a very visible way for the benefit of the campus and the community. “I encourage anyone who is interested in our program to come ask any one of us about it,” said Veitkus. “There isn’t a better way to get involved in your university than being a part of ‘The Spirit of USF’.”