Hokie Ambassadors often serve as the first impression of Virginia Tech for prospective students and their families. About 130 students are part of the organization, volunteering their time to give campus tours and leave guests with a sense of what the Hokie Nation really is all about.
"We believe the best way to show the face and the spirit of Virginia Tech is through our amazing and dedicated students who serve as our Hokie Ambassadors," said Hokie Ambassador Advisor Linda Hazelwood.
Growing up as a child in a military family, Reggie Pinder has a hard time pinpointing his hometown. But the president of the Hokie Ambassadors would probably choose Blacksburg, Va., over anywhere else.
“My parents always joke that I have too many maroon and orange clothes, but I don’t think that is ever possible,” said Pinder, a senior who is majoring in human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Science. “I just want to show other people the things that I love about this school.”
That pride in Virginia Tech led Pinder to join the Hokie Ambassadors, a student organization that partners with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
“Being an Army brat and moving a lot was hectic at first, but it taught me to make friends in different situations,” Pinder said. “It’s a reason why I am so comfortable in front of groups now. I was always the new kid and had to learn how to engage people in different situations.”
With his experience in moving frequently, Pinder considered a big move out of state for college, away from his family’s current home in Fredericksburg, Va. The strength of the Hokie Nation eventually persuaded him to apply to Virginia Tech.
“I noticed people who passed me on the highway had Virginia Tech logos, windsocks, hats, whatever they could display. I started researching and found the university had a tough academic program, but I liked the challenge,” Pinder said. “Beyond that, I saw Virginia Tech has a great sense of community and school pride. And I wanted to go to a university where I would feel involved.”
“Involved” may not fully cover Pinder’s experience at the university. He has been a mentor for DaVinci: The Biological and Life Sciences Living-Learning Community, a counselor for the College of Science’s Summer Bridge Program, a teaching assistant, a member of the Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad, and, of course, president of the Hokie Ambassadors.
While each tour is important, one encounter as an ambassador made a deeper impression. Pinder met a high school student and her mother at a science information session and convinced them to attend his campus tour later that day.
“After the tour, they told me they visited six other schools in Virginia. None of the tours clicked for them. After hearing how much I love this school, they felt that they could have that same love for Tech,” Pinder said. “She ended up deciding that Tech was the place for her and is actually one of my mentees right now. That’s my best moment as a Hokie Ambassador.”
Each spring, the Hokie Ambassadors open the application process for students interested in joining the organization.
"I enjoy seeing the enthusiasm of our Hokie Ambassadors year after year. In the past few years, I've seen the number of students who apply to be Hokie Ambassadors grow. Last year we reviewed about 300 applicants and our leadership team selected 60 of them as tour guides for the 2012-13 academic year," Hazelwood said.
It may seem like a tough process, but Pinder has a few pointers for those who hope to join the team. “Come to your interview prepared. Brush up on your Virginia Tech history and facts,” he said. “But we are not only looking for facts, we are looking at how you present yourself. There is going to come a time where you are the only person there in front of a group of families.”
In the end, the organization wants students who are passionate about Virginia Tech. “We are looking for really outgoing and engaging students. Students who can start up a conversation at a moment’s notice and who aren’t afraid to walk backwards, obviously,” Pinder said. “We need people who love this school and who will not necessarily convince everyone that Virginia Tech is for them, but to show everything we have to offer. Through that, we hope it does become the right place for them.”
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