Getting Back to Our Roots

Friday, August 10, 2018
The original CALS ambassadors: top row, from left to right - Steve Schulte, Clint McCall, Nicole S., April White, Laurie Morbitzer; bottom left to right - Kristina Wong Davis, Holly Sharp, James English, Kasey Urquidez, Casey McKeon.

This year, the CALS Ambassador program is celebrating its 25th anniversary. With the celebration comes a few things: nostalgia, remembrance, hope, and excitement. Moving forward, with these emotions and memories in mind, the program will focus on exactly what it means to be an ambassador for the college in an effort to get back to their roots.

In 1992, a new academic dean, David Shoup, joined CALS from Florida State University, bringing with him a new program for which students could support their college and grow as individuals. He then enlisted Jack Elliot, a faculty member in the Agriculture Education department, to help create and head up the program. Thus, in the fall semester of 1993, the ambassadors of CALS were indoctrinated to become the first student representatives of any individual college at the University of Arizona. Their goals were not only to recruit prospective students to the UA, but to teach high school students what being a part of CALS means, while learning teamwork and leadership skills as individuals. Professor Elliot elaborates, “If you were to put a fork in the road, one fork would go to supporting the college, recruiting, and communicating that the college is more than farming; the other fork is basically reversed in terms of focusing on personal development for the ambassadors such as teamwork, leadership and more.”

Two of the original ambassadors reminisce on their time with the program, having fond memories of Dr. Elliot and their time as ambassadors overall:

“I felt so special being a CALS ambassador,” says Kasey Urquidez, the Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Affairs, and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Arizona. “One of my favorites things included getting to go out-of-town to college fairs and high schools to recruit prospective students, which led me to my career today!” exclaims Kasey Urquidez. Her time with the ambassador program not only opened her eyes to her future profession but guided her throughout her career.

Another ambassador alum, Clint McCall, the Associate Vice President for Development of the UA Foundation, boasts about the program’s original leader, “My favorite thing about being an ambassador was Jack Elliot. Hands down. He made the experience.” Beyond the small moments and happy memories, McCall hopes that a few things have been carried on throughout the program’s life thus far: “The teaching and embodiment of professionalism, and a deep understanding of the importance of CALS to the UA and our communities, is what I hope carried on to future ambassadors. There was also a sense of ‘let’s build this together!’ That pioneering spirit that is a part of CALS.”

Today, the ambassadors are getting back to their roots to focus on the future. Their focus is to inspire high school students, excite them about CALS, show them the wide-ranging options available as a CALS student, and help them find the best fitting path for their future. One ambassador, having spent time among the group for the last four years, encourages the next generation to do their best for the college, and themselves. “Get involved as much as possible,” says Julia Johnston, a recent graduate of CALS. “The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. This program is designed for ambassadors to help recruit, but it is also designed to help ambassadors grow as young professionals.”

CALS alumni and current ambassadors will celebrate at the “Come Home for Homecoming” breakfast event during Homecoming weekend from 7:30-10a on October 27.