Student class ambassadors take pride in bringing their peers together

November 3, 2022 — The pandemic caused the class of 2024 to have an unusual and splintered entrance to Grinnell College when they first become Grinnellians in the fall of 2020. 

While the class is now entirely on campus (minus the students studying abroad this fall) those early days of virtual classes and meetings made it more difficult to build class togetherness and affinity.

Nick El Hajj ’24, left, Mira Manchanda ’24, and Landon Skinner ’24
  Nick El Hajj ’24, left, Mira Manchanda ’24,
  & Landon Skinner ’24 

That’s where Nick El Hajj ’24, Mira Manchanda ’24, and Landon Skinner ’24 come in. The three class ambassadors for the class of 2024 know they have a significant role to play in bringing the class closer together.     

“My class didn’t really have built-in affinity when we first got here,” Skinner says. “What we’re planning as ambassadors is a catalyst to get to know each other. The memories we make here are going to be a life highlight, so I want to help create the atmosphere to help people bond.”

Promoting connections among classmates is a goal of all 13 class ambassadors who are serving for the 2022-23 school year. Ambassadors for the class of 2023 are Shubhi Devrani ’23, Zoe Gonzalez ’23, and Nicki Kreutzian ’23. The class of 2025 ambassadors are Ashley Baek ’25, Yohanna Bedelu ’25, Raj Jhanwar ’25, and Zach Spindler-Krage ’25. Representing the class of 2026 as ambassadors are Clara Bode ’26, Cadence Chen ’26, and Sage Gladstone ’26

“I had a lot of student government experience in high school; I really enjoy being the point of contact in between my peers and administrators or staff,” Baek says. “Being a class ambassador is all about raising affinity. My class started out with everyone being separated. It was really individualized. We’re trying to raise the rapport with everyone.”

Victoria Harris, assistant director of student programs, points out the only two times an entire class is together is during New Student Orientation and at Commencement four years later.

Zoe Gonzalez ’23, left, Nicki Kreutzian ’23, and Shubhi Devrani ’23.
  Zoe Gonzalez ’23, left, Nicki Kreutzian ’23,
  & Shubhi Devrani ’23 

“As a whole Grinnell does a good job of offering different events, but most events are not specific to a particular class,” Harris says. “Events planned by ambassadors are invitations to their classmates to attend something that is light and fun, while creating opportunities for shared experiences. Class engagement also can prompt students to becoming part of an active alumni community post-graduation.”

Class-specific student events planned for this fall include a Halloween Decades Dance for first-years, a Winter Wonderland Formal for second-years, a Fall Formal Dance for third-years, and a Fall Festival for seniors. Ambassadors also are working events for all Grinnellians, such as organizing activities for National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 15 and for Arctic Lights – a community-building event in December where the lights are flipped on to Gates-Rawson Tower. 

A planner at heart, Baek is enthusiastic about organizing events. 

“I was a class ambassador last year as well, and the part I enjoyed the most was getting to know the two other ambassadors because I didn’t have classes with them and they came from different backgrounds than me,” Baek says. “It was great that we all had a different mindsets and perspectives when it came to planning these events. There was this satisfying feeling when we finished an event. Seeing everyone’s smile was wonderful. I’m excited to plan more events this year.”

Raj Jhanwar ’25, left, Ashely Baek ’25, Yohanna Bedelu ’25, and Zach Spindler-Krage ’25
  Raj Jhanwar ’25, left, Ashely Baek ’25,
  Yohanna Bedelu ’25, & Zach Spindler-Krage ’25

Another important objective class ambassadors are embracing is developing connections between students and alumni. Ambassadors are organizing a second- and third-year networking reception with the Alumni Council Nov. 4 during the Council’s on-campus fall meetings.

Skinner says he can’t wait for his fellow students to meet Past Council President Lester Alemán ’07 and his Council colleagues. He got to know Alemán through the Learning From Alumni class last school year.

“He’s one of my favorite alums I’ve met here,” Skinner says. “It will be great to give my classmates an opportunity to meet people like him who believe in Grinnell and its mission. That’s inspiring. It’s also helpful to talk with alums who have been out there and have real experiences.”

Another role of ambassadors is to help develop a philanthropic culture on campus. Ambassadors can be a peer voice in helping students learn more about giving and its impact, Harris says. Each set of class ambassadors is assigned one of the philanthropic t’s – time, ties, talent, and treasure. 

The 2023 class ambassadors are focusing on treasure, which includes fundraising efforts for the 
Steven Kent ‘67 Memorial Senior Class Gift. Ambassadors are serving on the Senior Class Gift Committee and have recruited their classmates to join. The committee will encourage seniors to make gifts prior to Commencement for the things they love about Grinnell, such as a sports team, academic department, or campus organization.  

Clara Bode ’26, left, Sage Gladstone ’26, and Cadence Chen ’26
  Clara Bode ’26, left, Sage Gladstone ’26,
  & Cadence Chen ’26 

The third-years are focusing on ties. “Everyone gives back in different way to help future Grinnellians,” Skinner says. “Ties are the way we bond with our class and the College as a motivation to give back to the people that surround you.”

Baek said the class of 2025 is emphasizing talent.

“At Grinnell, you have all these different talents that make you, you,” she says. “It’s your identity. We have artists, musicians, people who are talented in so many different ways. We want to embrace that.”

Harris says she hopes the 2022-23 class ambassadors will stay on in future years, so it’s possible a class will be represented by the same three or four ambassadors for up to four years.  

“It’s a great position,” Baek says. “I’ve really enjoyed it. Everyone I’ve talked to has been amazing and helpful.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Each set of class ambassadors have in Instagram page. Follow the class of 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026 for news, event information, and to better get to know the ambassadors.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive and like the Alumni & Friends Facebook page.