Diversity Ambassadors help first years adjust, encourage inclusion

Diversity students participate in the South Asian Student Association’s color throw. Photo by Adam Cvik. 

MORGAN SKERIES | STAFF REPORTER | mskeries@butler.edu

Diversity Ambassador applications for the 2017-18 academic school year are due March 31.

The application will close at 5 p.m. and will be followed by both a group and individual interview in the following weeks. Any student is welcome to apply, including graduate students.

Diversity Ambassadors serve as mentors for incoming first-year students from diverse backgrounds and incoming international students. They assist with diversity programs such as Dawg Days and serve as support advocates on campus.

Dawg Days is one of Butler’s pre-Welcome Week programs; it is encouraged that students with diverse backgrounds apply. Additionally, pre-orientation for international students takes place at the same time, making both programs very interwoven.  

The DAs have the unique responsibility of picking up international students from the airport.

Bobbie Gibson, the associate director of Diversity Programs and International Student Services, said that DAs pick up the international students from the airport at all times of the day and night.

“For the international students, they are pretty far from home,” Gibson said. “Also, they come in at all hours. [DAs] are literally the first Butler face that these students meet.”

Every DA is assigned to one of the students participating in the pre-orientation programs and that student will be a contact person for them throughout the entire academic year.

Valerie Davidson, Director of Diversity Programs and the Efroymson Diversity Center, has been working for this program for more than a decade.

She said the relationships that form between the DAs and their mentees are significant.

“Relationships continue even beyond their first year on campus,” Davidson said. “The impact that they have on those students is invaluable.”

Gibson stresses that the DAs are the first people the students will reach out to if anything happens, not her or Davidson.

“Things happen at 1, 2 or 3 in the morning,” she said. “And they don’t call me, they call their Diversity Ambassador. I am not the first person that they think to call.”

Close bonds form not only with the DAs and the students, but between the international students and the diverse domestic students as well.

“The Diversity Ambassadors are a very close-knit group, and you will see groups of international students and domestic students because they work so closely together,” Gibson said. “The international students have had a very positive effect on the underrepresented population.”

The international students often help many domestic students consider studying abroad.

“There was a student who would have never studied abroad, would not have considered it at all,” Gibson said. “Through the student’s interaction with the international population, the student was given the courage and the desire to do it. So, it’s not all about what the international students come here to learn from us and our country, we learn quite a bit from them.”

The DAs get as much out of it as the international students and first-year students do; it is a symbiotic relationship, Gibson said.

“The program is so impactful that we have had international students come back to Butler just to see their DA,” Gibson said.

DAs also help students get acclimated on campus.

“This program really does give them a jumpstart into their academic career here at Butler,” Davidson said. “And we have found that students who participate in this program do very well academically.”

Many first-year students and even international students who went through the program will apply to be DAs this upcoming academic school year because they want to provide the same type of assistance they had, Davidson said.

Also, because of technology, the relationships that occur between the international students and the DAs are long-lasting.

Frank Duarte is a second-year graduate student, music major and a current Diversity Ambassador. He also serves as one of the four managers of the Diversity Center.

He said being a DA is a tough job but thinks it is worth it.

“You have to take many things into consideration,” Duarte said. “You have to know that your culture is not the same for our students coming in. They have to accommodate [to our culture], but we have to accommodate as well.”

Duarte said the role as DA is somewhat easy for him because he is an extrovert. He also speaks five different languages.

“I speak English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese,” Duarte said. “I translate for people all the time, but it’s also something I love to do. I love to help people. The job has been tough but at the same time it’s been very rewarding and full of experiences.”

He would recommend this program to people who want to make a difference.

“I would not recommend this program for someone who just wants this experience for something on their résumé,” Duarte said. “I feel like these international students are my brothers and sisters. I would put myself on the front line for these people, and people who don’t want to do this seriously shouldn’t be able to have the title of a DA.”

Duarte said he thinks it is a very privileged program that is unique to Butler.

“We don’t have these types of programs in other schools,” Duarte said. “And you’re working with real people. Don’t do it for the resume, do it for the people.”

In regards to the application process, there are two lists, one consisting of the DAs and one consisting of alternate DAs. The alternate DAs will be asked to step in when the first list of DAs are unavailable.

These two lists can be compared to Resident Assistants and alternate RAs that step in when needed.

The cap for each list is around 35 to 40 students. Announcements of who will officially become a DA will be sent out on April 17.