Ambassadorship awards encourage independent student innovation

This spring, Geneseo will award six student ambassadorships through the Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Leadership. The center is a product of contributions from donors to Shaping Lives of Purpose: The Campaign for Geneseo. The six ambassadorships are the Frank Vafier Ambassador in Leadership, of which two will be awarded; the James Houston Ambassador in Innovation; the James N. Leary Ambassador in Leadership; the Community Advocates Ambassador in Community Engagement; and the Gerard Gouvernet Ambassador in French Language and Culture.

The ambassadorships will provide recipients with $5,000 fellowship grants to assist in implementing projects of their own invention.

“I’m trying to frame these awards so that they don’t turn out to be the usual,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Long, who has played a pivotal role in the implementation of the center. “We’re really trying to invite people to think outside of the box, to stretch themselves and find a project that’s going to make a difference.”

The first facilitation group for the selection process consists of a number of faculty, staff, community advocates and current Geneseo students.

Cynthia Oswald, president of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Livingston County Education Alliance, has worked with Long to organize the Ambassadorship in Community Engagement.

“I saw the immediate potential for both college students and the community to benefit from this project,” Oswald said.

“What I’m hoping to see down the road is that students and business people are communicating, and the students become the conduit to the resources available on campus,” she said. “Getting more students out in the community at a higher level of professionalism, from the chamber’s perspective, brings groups of people together and connects the right people to make things happen.”

“When we look at community wealth, it’s not just about dollars, it’s about what makes this county special,” Oswald said. “How do we increase that wealth?”

“One of the ways is through a program like this, and that’s where the innovation is,” she said. “That’s when people come together and talk who may have never met each other otherwise.”

Rose McEwen, associate professor of Spanish and chair of the department of languages and literatures worked together with Beverly Evans, associate professor of French, humanities and women’s studies, to outline the requirements for the Gerard Gouvernet Ambassadorship in French Language and Culture.

Evans said the ambassadorship’s main goal is to provide the recipient with a “transformational experience.”

“Whether in the form of study abroad or an internship abroad, it’s about the transformational aspect,” Evans said. “The ambassadorship goes along with the globalization mission of the college.”

Junior Michael Mattiucci, president of the Community Health Alliance program, is one of the two student members of the facilitation group. Mattiucci said he hopes to see more community engagement projects like the health alliance and believes that the ambassadorships will provide a medium to accomplish that.

“The center is basically a better organization of empowering students to do cool things, whether that’s connecting them to community initiatives and service learning or connecting them to faculty members,” he said. “[The center] not only provides financial support but a structure on campus to provide those connections.”

The formal launch of the Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Leadership will take place next fall. Applications for the ambassadorships for this summer are due Monday April 9.