By Anna Pusok
The Order of the Gown (OG) was established in 1873, and members ever since can wear the gown as a symbol of academic distinction. In the past years, the Order serves to voice student opinion with other student run organizations. This semester, OG starts its Ambassadors Program as an additional help to students.
OG President Mandy Tu (C’21), when asked how they came up with the idea of the program, said, “The previous OG president, Nellie Fagan, had the idea in the spring semester that she wanted to do something like this program. She told this idea to Cassie Meyer, who’s the Director of Dialogue Across Difference Programs, and I happened to be in the room, and I thought that was a great idea.”
Tu continued, “Later in the semester, the election happened, and that was part of the platform I ran on to implement a program that would allow students to gain leadership and facilitation skills.”
“My original idea was to be elected into these ambassador positions, so there would be two students from each class year, who would serve as representatives for their class year.” Tu further explained. “But we need to figure out the physicality for that, how it would work and I know that if we would start electing people to these positions, we would need to have a vote first, and we’re still trying to figure out how that would happen.”
This semester is a trial run for the program. The current four OG officers are still figuring out if there’s a need for the program, and how things will go, when they have the potential extension to the other class years.
The program started with four ambassadors: Tu, Lala Hilizah(C’21), and Ben Sweeton(C’21), who serve as the Parliamentarians of the Gown, and Claire Crow(C’21), the OG Secretary.
Tu chose the other officers: “In the OG constitution, it’s written that the president can point out the parliamentarians and the secretaries. That’s gone out of practice in recent years, but I have a lot of projects that I wanted to do while I’m in this role, and I wanted to bring people in, who were invested in the Order as a whole, and wanted to do work around campus.”
The four representatives went through training with Elizabeth Wilson, who runs the Center for Leadership. The training was about consolidating their college experiences and hearing from each other about what they struggled with, so they could translate that knowledge into the program since students might struggle with those now.
OG ambassadors offer hour and a half long office hours each week from Monday to Thursday, in which students can make 30 minute long appointments, which would take place over Zoom.
Tu said, “We have a resource folder, with currently two email templates, and one extensive general resource document for life at Sewanee, and we’re going to keep adding to those as the semester goes.”
“We can help you with even specific cases, for example, if you are struggling with a class, and you want to talk to the professor about it, but you’re not comfortable doing so, or don’t know how to approach your professor, then we’re here to help facilitate that process,” continued Tu.
The student representatives offer help to students with crafting emails, changing advisors, approaching professors and figuring out major and minor related issues.
“Other than this, we can talk about whatever issues the students have. We focus mainly on academics, but we also want to be there as a listening ear, so students can come to us with literally anything, and we can talk about it. We can also talk about what we needed in the past years when we had certain issues, and what resources on campus might be helpful or were helpful for us.” finished Tu. Their main goal with the program is to help students, especially freshman this semester, and to provide an additional resource for the student body.
The OG Ambassador Program had their first event past Thursday, Meet and Greet, where students could meet the ambassadors and ask questions about the OG and the ambassador program. They also hope to do more similar events in order to meet the student body on campus.