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Marie Barry ’68 says she believes there are “a million positive things to say about Santa Clara University,” many of which she can speak about through personal experience and considerable training.
Barry is one part of the University’s Ambassadors program, a group of more than 100 alumni, parents, and friends that work on behalf of SCU in a variety of ways, including organizing or assisting with alumni and admissions activities, developing career services opportunities, and assisting with fundraising.
An English literature major, Barry says she is “sort of retired” after a 30-year career with Alza Corporation. She began as a literature research scientist and went on to work in marketing, general management, and international business.
Despite a demanding career as a Silicon Valley professional, however, Barry’s continued passion for Santa Clara has brought her back to the University as one of the earliest members of the now flourishing Ambassadors program.
Adding a personal touch
Ambassadors are working to attract students to SCU by discussing the benefits of a Santa Clara education. Established in 2002, the program was inspired by a similar effort at Cornell University. It seeks to add a personal touch to the recruiting process, says Lysandra Sapp, the program’s coordinator, who says that it goes beyond letters and other information that accepted students receive.
Those who accept the invitation to become SCU Ambassadors undergo a two-day orientation that enables them to speak with authority about the many benefits of attending SCU. In 2004, Ambassadors teamed up with the Alumni Office to call more than 1,000 accepted students to encourage them to attend Santa Clara. This year, well more than 3,000 will receive calls, Sapp says.
Barry and the other Ambassadors are well versed on the University. “We are trained very well to answer many questions about financial aid, how we stack up against the U.C. system and other competitors, what it means to be a Jesuit university, details on the RLCs (Residential Learning Communities)— everything you can imagine,” Barry says.
Valentina Giusti is one example of the impact the Ambassadors program can have on accepted students. Giusti, an Italian-American and San Francisco native, was accepted to SCU in the spring of 2004 but was not certain Santa Clara was the right place for her.
As part of the New Student Recruitment program, in which Ambassadors call accepted students to serve as a resource for any questions they may have during their decision-making process, Ambassador Kathleen Bruno ’81 contacted Giusti. After hearing about Giusti’s interest in pursuing Italian studies, Bruno set up dinner with Giusti and SCU alumnus Jeff Capaccio ’81 to help ease the potential student’s concerns and to highlight the Jesuit philosophy of education.
The meeting paid off. Today, Giusti lives in Casa Italiana and is completing her freshman year at SCU.
Kathy Kale, executive director of the Alumni Association, says the program also helps the alumni who are involved by keeping them in touch with their alma mater.
“People want a personal relationship with the University,” she explains. “It is incredible how much the Ambassadors have learned. They can talk about our current mission and philosophy, as well as report on the work of the University on a day-to-day basis.”
The Ambassadors live in cities all over the United States and they are most centralized in the “hot spots” of student enrollment. Currently, Sapp is working to increase their presence in the Pacific Northwest, where the sunny climate and Jesuit tradition of Santa Clara is especially attractive. The number of Ambassadors has more than doubled from the 61 who participated in the program’s first year. Sapp says her ultimate goal is to have 200 to 250 Ambassadors reaching out to prospective students.
For more information about the Ambassadors Program, contact Sapp at 408-554-2787 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
—Michael Harvey is a senior English major in the College of Arts and Sciences.