Esta Jacob is a big believer in the notion that one person can affect big change.
The rising second-year finance and legal studies major wanted to be one of those people that put herself out there and made a difference during her time at Drexel University, and she’s already found the way to do it — through becoming a student ambassador.
The Student Ambassador program offers paid campus positions for students committed to helping Drexel grow and thrive by leading campus tours and sharing their knowledge and experience with prospective students and families. Though the hiring of new ambassadors was delayed along with in-person campus tours for the majority of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new ambassadors like Jacob who are willing to complete the necessary training are needed now as the University ramps up to reach normal activity levels this fall.
For Jacob, who toured Drexel in-person as a prospective student as well once she was admitted pre-pandemic, being a student ambassador allows her to make others see Drexel the way she sees it — as the right choice.
“I love the idea of being the person who can convince someone that Drexel is a school for them. They come on a tour and they're still on the fence, and then this person gives an amazing tour and suddenly they're like, ‘Yeah, this is the school for me.’ That's kind of what happened to me,” Jacob said. “I just want people to see what a great place Drexel is. I love this school. I cannot imagine going anywhere else now, so I definitely want people to see the great things that Drexel has and really consider Drexel as an option and take advantage of it.”
Jacob began giving informal tours as a member of the Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) back in the spring term, and then entered a rigorous, accelerated training schedule to become an ambassador last month. This involved such requirements as giving virtual and in-person mock tours, doing “tag tours” where she teamed up with an executive ambassador and supplied at least half of the necessary information, and doing it all through milestone such as finals week and freshman year move-out. Oh, and there was also a ton of studying.
“I think the trick is just to keep reading it over and over and over again because eventually, repetition will create memory,” Jacob said of studying the tour material during spring term finals week, which was about midway through her training. “That's what I’ve mostly been doing. It has been a little tough, especially with the deadlines. So I've been trying to get it done sooner rather than later. But obviously I've got to worry about my exams as well.”
Throughout the month-long training process, Jacob went from studying the tour material during her walks to and from classes and practicing in the mirror to providing a full campus tour to a group of 20 people with ease. This was the case on June 24 when Jacob completed her last “tag tour” alongside veteran ambassador Brandon Cisneros, a fifth-year marketing student.
Through her jokes and ample prompts for prospective students or their companions to ask questions, Jacob showcased in real time the two traits she feels are key for being a good student ambassador: approachability and lightheartedness.
About the first characteristic, she said: “If people don't feel like they can come ask you questions, they're going to leave the tour with tons of questions and they're going to be just as clueless as they were when they showed up. So I think that's big.” And on lightheartedness: “If it's awkward and it's just dead silence, you need to be able to make a joke so it's not as awkward. So I think that's important too, or else it will seem more like a job and less like a fun experience.”
Jacob also finds fun in relaying some of her favorite Drexel facts, like that the 80-foot biowall in the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building is the largest in North America, or having members of her tours guess what recycled material the floors of the URBN Center are made from (the answer, bowling alley lanes!). Despite this, there’s still more about Drexel she’s learning herself. As a student in a four-year program, she will not go on co-op until her third year, so she does not have personal co-op experiences to relay on tours. Instead, she fills them in on the companies she’s already eyeing up, as well as the experiences she’s heard from friends who are upperclassman.
Jacob can learn a lot from the tours themselves, too, as she has already found. In addition to gaining communication and people skills, she’s enjoyed chatting with people from all over the country and the world. Some have even offered her career advice, which is why she is now looking into clerkships to do while she’s in undergrad, before entering law school.
“You get to meet new people, crazy people with different stories, like someone came from Houston or someone who came from Puerto Rico. So it's really cool to from hear them as well,” she said. “Just the feeling of knowing that you might have impacted their college decision is kind of powerful. So I kind of love that. It's a great experience.”
For now, becoming a student ambassador is a way for Jacob to stay involved at Drexel during what could have been a quiet summer after her first year. Instead, since ending her training, she has been commuting to campus from her home in King of Prussia and giving tours almost every day despite heat and rain and lots of walking. She is also taking classes online this term, and will be a counselor at LeBow College of Business’ Camp Business later this month.
“People have been asking me why I'm doing class and tours and camp and everything else, but I'm not good at being bored,” Jacob said. “I am terrible at it because I will just sit in front of my laptop and watch Hulu and Netflix and go crazy and binge eat. So this is definitely safer for me as a long-term option.”
Though she will likely cut back her schedule, Jacob plans to continue giving tours and being a student ambassador throughout her time at Drexel. She hopes to rise through the ranks and one day become an executive ambassador who helps manage the whole program.
“There's no way I will ever stop doing this,” she said. “I love it so much.”
In the meantime, Jacob hopes that more new students will consider joining her by becoming student ambassadors in the months ahead. In doing so, they might be able to give future Drexel students an opportunity for a great campus tour — something that, due to the pandemic, they may not have been able to have before making their college decision.
“Giving good tours, regardless of the pandemic, is our responsibility. So, I take pride in that,” Jacob said. “… For upcoming students, this is your chance to make sure the kids get the tour you weren’t able to get. So this is your chance to do that and you’ll end up learning a lot about Drexel you wouldn't learn anywhere else. So I would definitely encourage it. You also meet so many new people, so that will definitely help you out as well.”
To find out more about how to become a student ambassador, click here.