Today, one of my past leaders, Dr. Wayne Sigler, moves on to his next chapter after 20 years as Director of Admissions at the University of Minnesota. I remember meeting Dr. Sigler on my first ever visit to campus in Fall 1998. I was a farmkid overwhelmed by the number of people, commotion and sounds of a 52,000+ student urban campus.
I was just beginning a 90 minute walking tour, and it was pouring. Honestly, I wasn’t enamored with the campus at the time. However, my tour guide was great (who coincidentally was from South Dakota *and* knew my cousin Tony), and I was impressed by the palpable passion exuded by the Office of Admissions and the people I met that day. Yes, there were 52,000 students, but I was pleasantly surprised how much this admissions team cared. About making sure you didn’t feel like a “number.” About answering questions and offering smiles (and Tootsie Pops) to each and every student. Being a first-born child and a bit Type A, I had read a book on “How to Tour College Campuses” and might have had more questions than all the parents combined on my tour.
While Minnesota had a great reputation, a Top 3 program for my area of study and a newly built business school, it was Admissions that clinched my college decision with their professionalism, enthusiasm, and personalized touch. I wanted to be part of this University.
Two weeks before my freshman year in 1999, I joined one of the greatest ambassadors for the U of M: the Pride of Minnesota marching band. But there was another group I pined to be part of, and they walked backwards through campus wearing maroon and gold rugbys: the Admissions Ambassadors. I wanted to be part of this team–this family and help guide other high school students in their college decisions.
After my first semester, I passed the interview test and was inducted as an Ambassador. Okay, so there wasn’t an actual ceremony. But luckily for me, marching band had prepared me for walking backwards without falling on my butt. Over three years, I would develop and learn life skills from Dr. Sigler and his Admissions team that prepared me to recruit, motivate & lead a volunteer team of 80, give presentations and train others, learn key messages, networking and smalltalk, maintain an enthusiastic demeanor, and in essence, be a student spokesperson as a face of the U. (Turns out walking backwards is not a transferable skill for a corporate job.)
I found that once you find your niche, even the largest university will feel smaller and connected. I learned the value of each experience and each relationship is directly related to the amount of enthusiasm, energy and time you put into it. I invested heavily in the U and it returned dividends in spades not only in the classroom but also with lifelong friends, an amazing network and setting me up for future success.
This is but one Ambassador story. Thanks Dr. Sigler for your leadership, your passion and your team which has played a role in shaping the person I am today.
P.S. Congrats to my cousin Karen for graduating magna cum laude today from Benilde St. Margaret. The sky’s the limit, and Iowa State is lucky to have you!