Computer Science Ambassadors are helping students solidify UT as their top pick. “Now more than ever, UT is my first choice for college,” said one high school student after spending the day at the Gates Dell Complex.
CS Ambassadors are undergraduate students who organize and lead visits to the Department of Computer Science (UTCS) for high school juniors and seniors who are considering pursuing a CS degree. Ambassador visits include a tour of the Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall (GDC), lunch with a student Ambassador, a meeting with a department advisor, attendance in an entry-level CS course, and a meeting with a faculty member.
More than 60 high school students spent the day with UTCS through the Ambassador program during the fall and spring semesters of the 2012-2013 school year. Said one attendee of her time with CS Ambassadors: “I can't stop talking about it! It was so helpful to have so many people who WANT me to be in the program. Many other tours I have taken just want to show off the school, but the Ambassadors at UT made me feel like I should really go there.”
The key to the success is the CS Ambassador program is the Ambassadors themselves. They are truly “ambassadors” for the Department, warmly welcoming future students to the department. Their sincere and candid interactions with families help high school students and their parents make informed decisions about next steps after high school. “I believe that you are doing really well with making the prospective students feel welcomed and at ease. I was most impressed that I got every single question I had prepared answered,” explained one high school student who participated this year.
Ambassadors are a diverse group of students who represent a broad range of the CS students. Ambassadors must have completed one year in UTCS, meet a GPA requirement, and participate in a competitive interview process to join the program. They receive training and shadow experienced Ambassadors prior to leading their own visits. The entire Ambassador team meets twice monthly to share experiences and participate in ongoing training. Leaders in the Ambassador program arrange the visits, manage communications with potential students and their families, coordinate with faculty members, assign Ambassadors to visitors based on the students’ interests, and gather feedback from the families that participate.
There is tremendous interest in GDC, and the role of the Ambassadors has grown with the department’s move into it. Ambassadors led building tours throughout the opening event. (One Ambassador, who led Bill Gates on a tour of the building, wrote about her experiences for Forbes.com.) Since the move into the new space, Ambassadors have led group tours during events such as Explore UT, for high school computer science teachers and their classes, and for organizations such as UT LAMP and the Texas Exes.
More than 20 CS students served as Ambassadors over last school year, providing a valuable resource to UTCS. One student who visited decided to not only to apply to UTCS, but left with additional plans for college: “I'm definitely thinking of becoming an Ambassador when I get to UT... I'm glad I made the trip!”