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The anonymous group selling LiU

There is a large, but perhaps not so well-known, group of employees at LiU. They have good titles, only work part-time, and retire after a couple of years from natural causes. Simon Ingebrand is one of around 60 student ambassadors.

Simon Ingebrand, student ambassadorPeople often treat others as they are treated. That was Simon Ingebrand’s thought as he applied for the job of ambassador.

“I was treated unbelievably well when I came to LiU. I was warmly welcomed during my initiation period; I met some great sponsors who almost became like big brothers and sisters. That creates a positive culture, which makes people want to treat new students the same way. At the same time, the ambassador’s job is a really great side job. You’re free to choose when you want to work.”

The job as ambassador means promoting LiU to prospective students. This happens primarily through visits to high schools and participation in student fairs. In total, LiU makes 60 school visits every academic year. Every ambassador makes around five such visits, which often take at least a day depending on which town they’re visiting.

“I think the ambassadors are the ones who can get the scales to tip one way or the other,” says Christina Almtun, head of ambassador operations at Student Recruitment. “High school students want to meet university students and ask the questions the Internet or the brochures can’t give a quick answer to. Meeting face to face can’t be replaced by a homepage or by social media.”

Simon has generally the same view of the subject.

“We ambassadors can make the information more personal and supplement the brochures. You don’t just get an education at LiU, you get a life. We can talk about this life, for example how you live and what a school day looks like.”

And he has his own trick for doing a good job: “I start with myself – what was it like when I was in high school? What was I thinking about? I try to remember that feeling now. And when I see the ‘Aha!’ expression on their faces, I know I’ve done the job.”

What qualities does a good ambassador have to have?

“You have to be social,” says Simon. “High school students can be a little timid, as an ambassador you need to take the initiative and start talking with them. You also have to know the product; I want to promote it with a good conscience.”

Simon really seems to feel warmly about LiU. He is in the middle of his fourth year in Industrial Engineering and Management after a year abroad in Germany. He is 26 years old from Sundsvall; when the time came to choose his place of study there was no doubt about it.

“Most of all I wanted to come to Linköping, the courses came second. My family has a summer house near here, and I have a lot of great summer memories from here.”

Simon’s first meeting with the university was on a sunny day in May when he visited his cousin who was studying here at the time.

“It was 28 degrees C out; people were eating ice cream by Blå havet. It was almost romantic, far from a normal rainy Tuesday in Ryd.”

Christina Almtun at Student RecruitmentLiU employs some 60 ambassadors. Every year 15 to 20 new ones are recruited, since there is a natural retirement when the students finish their studies and leave LiU. The recruitment is arranged exactly like seeking a regular job with want ads, application documents, and interviews. And the job is a popular one – almost 80 students apply every year.

“We try to recruit so that the ambassadors reflect all of LiU,” says Almtun (picture at left). “We want them to represent all four departments, as many courses as possible and all our campuses. Some ambassadors even work internationally to raise interest for LiU’s international programmes among prospective students from all over the world.”

The ambassadors are trained in three sessions every autumn. Among other things, Deputy University Director Mats Arwidson talks about LiU’s history, its present, and its future. They go through LiU’s message platform, education programmes and courses, and how study guidance and other agencies at LiU work.

“I really want to bring out the ambassadors,” Almtun continues. “They’re doing fantastic work. I get so much positive feedback from fair organisers and high schools.”

What would Simon say to someone thinking about applying for a job as ambassador?

“Do it! There are a lot of wonderful people working as ambassadors. You can meet people from other programmes and other campuses. And we have a lot of fun on our trips.”

Simon remembers a trip to Örebro. When it was time to take the train home, a lot of snow had fallen and the train was greatly delayed. They stopped in Hallsberg and had to sit for hours in Katrineholm station before they finally got home.

“That trip became an in-joke among us ambassadors. Like a trip to Gällivare where almost all our LiU material got lost on the plane and we had to stand around a rickety little wooden table with a few brochures and promote LiU.”

As he said, Simon really knows the product he’s selling. But is there anything bad about LiU? Simon thinks a moment.

“C-building,” he says and roars with laughter. “No, seriously – it’s hard to ignore the fact that the buildings could be better. It’s completely impossible to learn your way around A- and B-buildings. Linköping University is a ‘Million Program’ construction” (a Swedish housing construction program from 1965 to 1974).

One proof that the ambassadors can tip the scales in LiU’s favour is this e-mail that came to Christina Almtun’s in-box:

Hi! I’m a student at another university. This week I met three of your wonderful students at our information day. I was treated so unbelievably well that I really had my eyes opened to Linköping University; their love for their university and town was so obvious that it made me feel at home.

Text and photo: Elisabeth Wahrby

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Last updated: 2013-05-03