CIDD announces 2014 ambassadors

Geneseo awarded 11 ambassadorships to 12 students this spring through the Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Development. The center focuses on facilitating student projects through sponsor-donated scholarships. These awards are designed to fund exploratory and outreach-oriented student-driven projects, aiming to support student ideas and visions, according to Interim President Carol Long. For this, each student recipient was granted a $5,000 scholarship.

A committee of 12 individuals including staff, community members and previous recipients reviewed the student proposals this year.

“Every year it’s different because these projects are developed by students. Any student can apply, and we have a selection committee that goes over each application,” Director of the Center for Inquiry, Discovery and Development Cynthia Oswald explained.

“What we’re looking for, in a nutshell, is transformational projects,” Oswald said. “They should be innovative and they should provide individual growth.”

Senior Luciano Scala, recipient of the Campus Auxiliary Services Ambassador in Entrepreneurship, plans to create VisoWorld, “to create a matchmaking website for study abroad students,” Scala said. “It is based on personal characteristics and matches you to the best study abroad program that can most empower you.”

Junior Staci Weiss is using her grant money for her project titled “Bridging the Geneseo Students to Children in Need,” as the recipient of the Community Advocates Ambassador in Community Engagement.

Weiss, who has been working for the past two and a half years at a day care in Mount Morris for children from low-income households, is devoted to bettering this program.

“My project is to create this bigger program of Geneseo students. We already have an army of 25 to 30 volunteers who basically staff the day care every day Monday through Thursday. I want to create a more structured program using the volunteers to instill resilience and promote academic achievement in the kids,” she said.

One of three students who received the Frank Vafier ‘74 Ambassador in Leadership, junior Joshua Murphy also has a project dedicated to bettering education of members of the local community.

“I’ve been working with a group of local educators, and I’m doing community outreach and market research,” he said.

“I’m holding some town board-style meetings in Livingston County and possibly Monroe County areas and the Finger Lakes a little bit in order to pull in some educators, adolescent students, parents of those students and any other interested members of the community to talk about alternative education options to students that are not feeling quite at home in the public education system,” Murphy explained.

Junior Jennifer Grom, who received the Geneseo Alumni Association Ambassador of Philanthropy, is using this opportunity to shine light on the Save A Future with Education program.

“I will be making a documentary on the kids that are in the SAFE program. I started this program when I was in the fourth grade, and it basically raises money in the United States for kids in Mexico to go to school who normally couldn’t afford it,” Grom said.

“The documentary is going to be about where the kids are now because of the education they had. We have kids now in nursing school and doing things they never would have been able to do,” she added.

Senior Eric Maldonado, recipient of the Edward Pettinella ‘73 Ambassador in Business, is traveling to Prague, Vienna and Amsterdam as part of his project.

“I’m going to be conducting interviews with administrators, musicians and students both in Europe and the United States to determine the effectiveness of government support for the arts and music specifically,” he said. “I’m more concerned about the social part, like why do people think classical music is dead when it’s really not.”

Junior Catherine McWilliams is using her grant to create a photography project collective narrative of women’s college experience titled “Looking Forward/Looking Back: (Re)Staging Memory & The College Experience.” She was one of two people awarded the Provost’s Ambassadors in Diversity.

Juniors Sarah Diaz and Tom Silva are working together to create a cooperative housing experience in Geneseo with the aid of the Frank Vafier ‘74 Ambassadors in Leadership ambassadorship. A co-op is a business organized around the housing needs of its members.

“There are going to be eight of us living in an off-campus house pooling resources, chores, dinner duties and hosting this cooperative place,” Diaz explained.

In addition, Diaz said, the co-op will bring the community and campus together through community dinners, skill workshops and art exhibits.

Recipient of the Gerard Gouvernet Ambassador in French Language and Culture sophomore Matthew McClure is using this grant money to support a Haitian Creole crash course education program that stemmed from a trip to Haiti he took last spring break. This summer, he will attend a five-week French program in Canada and a three-week Haitian Creole program in Boston, using this knowledge to educate future students on a trip to Haiti.

Other ambassadorship winners are junior Tushara Surapaneni who received the James Houston ‘80 Ambassador in Innovation, and senior Olga Semertzidis, recipient of the Provost’s Ambassador in Diversity. The winner of the John A. ‘87 and MaryGrace ‘84 Gleason Ambassador in Student Affairs has yet to be announced.

“They just leveraged the original idea into much more outcomes that sometimes we even imagined, so it’s been cool,” Long said. “There is a lot of authentic individual learning that comes out of them no matter what the project is, and that’s great.”