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COALS Ambassadors and Mentors Program for Study Abroad


Since 2011-2012, the Ambassadors and Mentors for Study Abroad in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University seek to promote participation in international academic programs by:
  • Disseminating information about opportunities to study abroad through classroom and student organization presentations (click here to see video), individual meetings, campus events, and social media.
  • Helping students understand the benefits of participation personally, academically and professionally.
  • Assisting students with the process of finding those programs that best fit each student’s specific needs.[1]
  • Hosting semester programs such as the College Study Abroad Open House, workshops on Fund-Raising for Study Abroad and Cultural Learning so that students have a richer, more worry-free experience while they’re abroad, and an annual photo contest.
     
Team members help students with the study abroad application process if they have difficulties with it, direct them to resources for scholarships, and discuss concerns about going abroad.  They also serve as a resource for the College’s incoming reciprocal exchange students about life on campus and in Texas.
 
The college tries to have 12-16 team members reflecting experience with as many of the College’s different study abroad programs and types of programs as possible.  Team members can be undergraduate or graduate students.  They must have participated in an international academic experience, have a minimum 2.7 GPA, and commit to two semesters of service.  International students are welcome as their time here is a study abroad experience.  The average weekly commitment for members is 3-4 hours.  This is a combination of office hours, team meetings, events or workshops, and group or individual projects. 

 
The group is divided into three smaller teams:
  • Outreach and Advising
  • Media and Social Networking
  • Events
The team meets as a whole every other week, and the small teams meet during the alternate weeks.
 
The College provides a $500/semester scholarship for members who have a 3.0 GPA or higher.  There is also professional training provided for the team members.  This has included:
  • How to give presentations
  • How to design brochures
  • Public speaking courtesy of Toastmasters
  • How to handle it if a student reports a crime or sexual harassment to them
  • Resume development and interviewing
  • Developing intercultural skills  
     
In addition to the 12-16 team members, there is a program coordinator for the group.  The coordinator is chosen from among the team members as this eliminates a lot of time and effort in bringing someone from outside the group up to speed.  Focus during the selection process is placed on: initiative, organization skills, the ability to get along with other team members, and their understanding of the programs’ goals.  The coordinator works 15-17 hours and is paid as a student/graduate student worker.  He or she coordinates all the team’s activities, sends out weekly updates, helps team members and small teams set their goals for the semester and/or the year and tracks their progress, and assists a full time staff member (Ms. Cathryn Clement), as the program supervisor, in semester planning and assessment.
 
At the beginning of each semester, there is a half-day training on the weekend to introduce basics such as program goals and procedures, types of study abroad, and FERPA regulations to new members as well as training to improve the skills of current members such as role-playing student interviews, “elevator” speeches, intercultural skills, etc.  The training is followed by lunch or supper depending on the time of day.
 

At the end of each semester, team members fill out an evaluation as to what they accomplished or didn’t accomplish toward their goals as individual members, in their small teams and the team as a whole.  They also give their suggestions as to ways to improve the group. [2]
 
For more information about this program, contact Ms. Cathryn Clement, Coordinator for International Academic Programs, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,
cclement[at]ag.tamu.edu, or 979-458-0820

[1] Team members focus on helping students narrow program choices down to 2-3 programs, then recommend that they take that information to their academic advisors to discuss what will best fit with their academic programs.
[2] This has been invaluable in making adjustments to the program as well as having members feel vested in the program.