McCain ambassador program makes comeback


Student ambassador programs are all over campus and are very similar in that the common purpose is to bring awareness to the organization or college.

One of these programs, which was recently revived, is the McCain Student Ambassadors. The program was active in the ’80s and ’90s, but for stopped meeting for several years due to unknown reasons.

“When I became director in 2007, a goal of mine was to breathe new life into the student ambassador program,” Todd Holmberg, executive director of McCain Auditorium, said. “It took a few years of managed growth, but now they are operating on all cylinders due to excellent student and staff leadership.”

The McCain ambassadors increase awareness about upcoming events by using students like Hannah Miller, senior in theater, who are passionate about the arts.

“I decided to become an ambassador because I have always been a great theater lover and McCain is such a great venue with so many amazing opportunities for students to see shows,” Miller said. “In my time at K-State, I’ve seen iconic performers like Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters and, of course, Eric Stonestreet. Where else are you going to get that opportunity as a student with a low budget?”

While many of the ambassador programs across campus are open only to the students associated to the college or activity, the McCain student ambassadors program is open to all students.

Administrative assistant at McCain Shannon Madden, former ambassador and current adviser, said students from all types of majors – including music and theater, graphic design, marketing, communications, computer science and engineering – are involved in the ambassador program. Ambassadors also range from freshmen to fifth-year seniors. There are no restrictions to keep any students from applying.

“It does not matter that some would like to be on the stage after graduation and others love to support them in the audience,” Madden said. “The great thing is that we all … love the arts in every single way.”

The inclusive group meets biweekly to discuss ideas on how to help Holmberg promote McCain and the performance series. While they do not help decide on what events are brought, they do play a very big role in promoting them.

“Their peer-to-peer interactions with other K-State students have really been effective over the past few years in communicating messages of opportunities to engage with the arts at McCain Auditorium,” Holmberg said.

The McCain Student Ambassador program is distinctive, thanks to the unique benefits that the ambassadors receive. According to McCain ambassador president Leah Watts, senior in vocal music education, their hard work pays off in multiple ways. Ambassadors are asked to volunteer at three shows a semester, after which they can find a vacant seat and watch the show for free as a thank you for their time. After the ambassadors have volunteered at three shows, they are given a complimentary ticket to a fourth show.

In addition to watching performances for free, ambassadors are occasionally given the opportunity to meet the artists.

“It depends on the artist, of course, and what they allow in their contract, but some of them are very welcoming to the ambassadors,” Madden said.

Throughout the 2013-14 performance series, the ambassadors sponsored multiple meet-and-greets with the visiting artists. When critically-acclaimed contemporary jazz trio ACS came to campus, they met with a handful of students that were studying jazz at K-State. The Broadway cast of “Green Day’s American Idiot” also held a private event open only to the ambassadors.

“I loved talking with artists and hearing their journeys and stories,” Madden said. “Last year we were working on specific protocol for each event we planned, so we decided to create steps of putting on a meet-and-greet to use our own ambassadors to see how it would work. That way, we could figure out what works and what did not before we started opening it up to other people.”

The ambassadors do a variety of other things to help promote McCain throughout the year. The students run a Facebook and Instagram page, set up booths at activity fairs, set up information tables and offer concessions at performances.

“It sounds like a lot, but it really does not take that much time out of your schedule, especially with the increase of members,” Madden said. “Events and opportunities that I have been given through McCain are seriously once in a lifetime.”