By Anna Meurer
A familiar name on campus, the President’s Ambassadors Program, has been discontinued. The program was established in 1992 “to encourage exemplary students to become actively involved in the development and promotion of the college and to offer additional leadership training opportunities,” according to the program’s now discontinued web page.
Each year 22-23 students were selected, each representing a former college president, to represent the college at various engagements. Additionally, the program was known for its trips with the president, including locations such as Greece and the Bahamas.
At the beginning of this semester, the ambassadors received an email on behalf of President Greene with the notice of the program’s discontinuation, effective Spring semester. According to the email, “To the contrary, it is a reflection of how the program has evolved in recent years. While I assume the program served useful functions in the past, its focus and usefulness has dimmed, to the point of experiencing lack of direction and of becoming the subject of criticism across the broader college community.”
“Almost from the point I stepped on campus I began to get mixed signals about the President’s Ambassadors Program,” said Greene. His main reasons for the program’s discontinuation focused on the lack of direction and involvement of the group. In the past, the group was active and traveled quite frequently but in recent years suffered a dip in involvement.
Furthermore, the group had a mixed reputation on campus, with opinions ranging from approval to ignorance to criticism, even to the point of what Greene called a sense of “animosity.” A small group “felt the President’s Ambassadors was the favored group” on campus, said Greene. Additionally, with several ambassadors heavily involved in leadership roles in other campus groups, the program seemed somewhat superfluous.
In response to his initial feelings, Greene commissioned an independent review of the program as well as consulted program members, faculty, and Executive Cabinet members. In light of their findings, Greene and the Cabinet decided that the best plan of action was to discontinue the program until further notice. When asked about the possible future of the program, Greene said that he had no active plans for reinstating the program, but he could not comment on its status in upcoming years.
Reactions from the ambassadors ranged from agreement to disappointment. Senior Catherine Foust said, “I am thankful I was able to serve during the time that I could as a PA, but I respect Dr. Greene’s decision to end the program. Things are bound to change with a new president, and if he feels that his skills and time could be better suited working with another program, I am okay with that. I am more passionate about seeing things prosper on this campus and gaining back stability under Dr. Greene’s president than I am about maintaining tradition for tradition’s sake.”
Brenda Patel, a senior Biology major, remarked, “I think the program wasn’t meeting the goals that it was originally created for, but I do think that it would have been a helpful program from the incoming president because it [would have] allowed him to meet with a small group of students who [could] help him learn about the issues the student body thinks are important… With that said, I think the end of the program was inevitable.”
While the program’s status itself was generally accepted, several ambassadors criticized the manner in which its dissolution was announced. Former Ambassador Chris Bartlett remarked, “While I can appreciate the financial situation Dr. Greene has been placed in charge of, I feel that the process of discontinuing PA was handled poorly. An email, no matter how well worded, is a poor substitute for a personal, sit-down meeting that only had to last five minutes… Financially, it was the right decision, but the manner in which it was handled leaves a bitter taste.”
Patel agreed,“The only thing that upsets me about the decision is that we were notified via email….It would have been nice to have a formal meeting to inform us.”
Responding to the remarks, Greene said that, given the impending start of the spring and a recent meeting with the ambassadors, he thought the email was the most efficient and appropriate form of communication. “It was not intended to be impersonal,” he said, noting that he took special care in the email to thank the ambassadors for their service.