Story by Graham Duncan
According to Lander University senior Maria Martinez Contreras, one of the most rewarding experiences she’s had as a presidential ambassador was when one student told her that the warm and friendly welcome while conducting a campus tour was part of the reason he chose to come to Lander.
That reminded Contreras of the impact that presidential ambassadors have on recruiting new students to Lander. “It was honestly one of the nicest things someone has ever said to me,” said Contreras. “It was such an unbelievable experience because I had no idea of the impact I had on him.”
Contreras said that there are lots of things she loves about being a presidential ambassador, but what she loves most “is having the opportunity to share the love I have for this University with others,” she said.
In addition to serving as a presidential ambassador, Contreras also served as one of Lander’s orientation leaders this past summer. This means that some of the same prospective students Contreras had a chance to meet when touring Lander saw her once again just prior to the start of their freshman year.
Contreras said she enjoyed working with her fellow orientation leaders to show new students all that Lander has to offer, and provide guidance and support as they prepared for their freshman year. “There are so many students that remember me and still ask me questions when they see me,” she said. “We truly made a connection with them, and they have made my college experience so much better than it already was.”
Contreras is an interdisciplinary studies major, with concentrations in early childhood education and psychology, while also minoring in Spanish. In addition to her work as a presidential ambassador and orientation leader, she’s the president of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority and vice president of public relations of the College Panhellenic Council. Prior to becoming president of Gamma Phi Beta, she served as the sorority’s pace chair, recruitment day chair and sisterhood chair. Contreras is also a member of the Order of Omega, and a student worker for Lander’s Office of Admissions.
As National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Dr. Osvaldo Parrilla, professor of Spanish at Lander University, said Contreras was another excellent example Hispanic students in key leadership positions at Lander. “Maria has been involved in various organizations from the moment she stepped foot on Lander’s campus,” said Dr. Osvaldo Parrilla, professor of Spanish and faculty sponsor. “She is passionate about being part of the Lander family.”
When leading campus tours and speaking with prospective and incoming students and their families, presidential ambassadors and orientation leaders play an important role in leaving them with a good first impression. Contreras said her “sales pitch” for Lander University is its home-like atmosphere. She said the support that faculty and staff provide to students, and that students provide to one another, makes Lander a special place to work, study and call a home away from home. “The staff and the people here are the reason why this University is truly amazing,” she said.
“There is no University like this one.”