University-Industry Engagement Week

Student ambassadors help local business partners create ‘home’ jobs for students

By David Schwartz
Published: June 6th, 2023

A detailed article on student ambassadors as conduits for industry engagement appears in the May issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here.

Two “student ambassador” programs — one of long standing, the other just getting started — both involve tapping students to network in the community to connect with industry, promote local resources and opportunities, and convince students to stay in-state and display their talents to potential employers. The efforts – at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and Ball State University — are enlarging the talent pipeline for local industry, while promoting state-based companies to students who may otherwise leave for other pastures.

While they are similar, the two programs part ways a bit when it comes to their basic goals. “Our main goal is to develop students,” says Robert Mitchell, PhD, director of the UA Little Rock School of Business, whose program is now reaching its 11th anniversary. The ambassadors represent the school during major events, support their fellow business students, and engage with industry to let them know about academic, research, and industry partnership opportunities. Their specific responsibilities include:

  • Assisting prospective students to understand the advantages of attending a metropolitan business program.
  • Facilitating success among business majors.
  • Networking with area business leaders.
  • Participating in off-campus business events.
  • Providing advice to the school leadership regarding student needs and concerns, and helping ensure a positive college experience for all business majors.

The major goal of the Ball State program, explains Jeff Eads, director of industry engagement, is “to help our regional folks and counties be entrepreneurial about how to attract talent.”

Basically, he says, the program will say to these organizations, “’Hey, we have students from your county coming here; how can we empower you to grab one of them? Call an ambassador, who will talk about how great it is to come back home.’”

That’s not to say that Indiana does a poor job of keeping its students in-state. “As a state-serving institution we love to show a graph [indicating that] 78% of last year’s graduates stayed in the state,” says Eads. “We’re thrilled about that — but there could always be more.”

The university, he continues, already does a lot to retain in-state talent. “We’ve created a video with state leaders [outlining] opportunities and asking students to consider living in the state,” he shares. “We have the Indiana Connection Lounge, a café where industry can sit and have very casual interaction with students — what we call ‘return on collision’ networking.” The Ball State student ambassador program, he says, will launch in the fall. Students will sign up for one year but will be able to extend that should they wish.

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Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week