Eight students selected as Agriculture, Home Economics Ambassador program enters second year

Cookeville students Heather Andrews and Garrett Shepherd won't just be students at Tennessee Technological University when fall semester gets underway in August. They'll be ambassadors.

The two are among eight top students selected to be "AG/HEC Ambassadors" in the second year of a successful program organized by the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

As such, they will give personalized attention to high school students who have indicated an interest in attending Tennessee Tech. They will also make presentations to high school classes across the state and help organize a variety of functions designed to strengthen and advance the college. Ambassadors are chosen for their communication abilities, poise, attitude and knowledge of Tennessee Tech's programs in agriculture and home economics.

Donald Elkins, dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics, initiated and directs the program, which is modeled on a similar "Agbassadors" effort he launched at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he taught and served as associate dean before joining Tennessee Tech in 1995.

"I worked with the Agbassadors team at SIUC for 10 years before I came here, and I may have had a team as good as this one at Tennessee Tech, but not better. They are super young people!," Elkins said.

Although Tennessee Tech's program has been in existence for only 12 months, Elkins says he is already seeing considerable impacts.

"One of the most important services the ambassadors provide is in interacting with prospective students -- in person, by telephone and by letter, and our first eight ambassadors did all of those things in the 1996-97 academic year.

"We had no enrollment increase in the college last year, but as of the third week of May this spring, our admissions were up by more than 40 percent compared to the same date a year ago. We don't claim that all of this is due to the ambassadors, but I believe that they made a major contribution toward this admissions increase."

In his application to be an ambassador, Shepherd, son of Ken and Sandra Shepherd of Dodson Branch Road, traced the ties that link his family to Tennessee Tech, including the degrees in engineering and agriculture his father and grandfather, respectively, earned there.

"As an agriculture student with a concentration in pre-veterinary science, I am following in their footsteps, and I would like to see Tech remain strong. By becoming an AG/HEC Ambassador, I can help ensure the university continues to grow in numbers and stature."

Andrews, an animal science major and daughter of Hollings Andrews of Dixie Avenue, says she looks forward to meeting with potential students and enhancing her own leadership skills.

"It would be an honor to share my knowledge of the school with others. ... We always welcome prospective students into our family-like environment. Being a part of this team also has qualities to help in the outside world. In life everyone has to show leadership at one time or another."

Other ambassadors for the coming year are Carolee Belew of Leoma, Jennifer Myers of Midway, Katie Walters of Old Hickory, Laurie Ann Selby of Walling, Melinda Menefee of Knoxville and Andy Pirtle of Hixson

More information on the ambassadors program and other aspects of agriculture and home economics study at Tennessee Tech is available on the university's web site, www.tntech.edu/www/acad/aghec/.