Like many that came before them, this year’s incoming freshmen are both excited and nervous about starting college at WSU.
They’re excited to leave home for the first time – to embark on adulthood and to learn new things.
They’re anxious – wondering what their dorm is going to be like and how they’ll manage their classes and their laundry.
And, they are starting college during a worldwide pandemic.
The Voiland College ambassadors offer a friendly smile, support, and encouragement to prospective students taking their first steps on their journey to WSU. Their job is more important than ever this summer.
“It’s going to be different, but the upperclassmen can still show them the ropes,” said Jessica Erickson, a student ambassador who is going to be a junior in materials science and engineering. “We’re going through the same thing.”
Voiland College ambassadors are a group of student leaders who represent the college to industry representatives, alumni, and prospective students and their families. Through sharing their WSU experience and unique insider perspectives, ambassadors help students and alumni learn about and connect with the college.
More than a dozen student ambassadors are working over the summer. They have participated in nine Zoom sessions over four weeks that included 75 participants from throughout the U.S. and Canada. Nine more sessions are scheduled for the next few weeks. In spite of the challenges presented by the coronavirus, prospective Voiland College freshmen enrollment has increased three percent over last year.
“These outstanding students are doing an incredible job in a crazy, ever-changing situation,” said Lindsey Beat, director of recruiting in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. “Although our prospective students can’t visit campus in person this summer, our ambassadors offer a friendly, personal touch while showcasing the many wonderful opportunities that await the students.”
Erickson, originally from Kuna, Idaho, became a Voiland student ambassador two years ago. She came to WSU because as a prospective student she was excited to receive an invitation to participate in undergraduate research. She jumped at the chance and began working in the research lab as a freshman. She is studying glass compositions that might be useful for long-term storage of nuclear waste.
During her time at WSU, she has also participated in numerous campus activities. She is active in WSU Materials Advantage, the Society of Women Engineers, and in mentoring to engineering students. In her free time, she enjoys hiking throughout the Palouse region.
“WSU provides a lot of experiences outside the classroom,” she said. “It’s a place with a lot of diversity, where you have a chance to really make connections with people.”
She is happy to share her experiences with prospective students and let them know about everything WSU has to offer.
During her time as ambassador, she would normally visit with students in person and take families on tours of the engineering complex.
These days, she’s visiting with families and students over Zoom calls, providing advice on everything from what clubs to join to what dorms will look like.
Like everyone else, Erickson’s plans have also been derailed by the coronavirus. She was set to go abroad this summer for a research experience in Austria but is taking online summer courses instead.
This fall is going to be different for everyone, and some aspects of beginning college are going to be harder. The three-day ALIVE sessions have traditionally allowed students to meet new friends. Doing the sessions remotely simply doesn’t provide the same opportunity. Erickson is especially aware of a new experience for incoming students because her sister is starting at WSU this fall.
“Even though we grew up together and she’s coming from the same town, her introduction to WSU is going to be very different,” she said.
At the same time, though, exploring new things is what starting college is all about. Students, including Erickson’s sister, are eager to get started on the next chapter and new adventures — even during challenging times.
“She is really done with high school and is so excited to go to college,” she said.