Goals are to make new students at ease, answer student questions, keep retention rates high
Kyle Bals, a senior majoring in geography, is the new Jesse H. Wheeler Student Ambassador, selected for the program named after the first chair of the geography department, who served from 1949-1988 in several capacities. The ambassador program began in Spring 2020, and Bals begins his one-year paid ambassadorship Fall 2021.
His duties include recruitment of new majors to geography; promoting geography classes, often through presentations; managing and promoting department events, including the RSVP system; and more.
Bals will be helping with Welcome Week (Aug. 20), the Semester’s Eve BBQ (Aug. 22), New Majors Orientation (Aug. 23), Arrow Rock Camping Trip (Sept. 24-25), Homecoming Alumni Panel (Oct. 8) and more.
In addition, he will help with a Passport Book, which encourages geography majors to engage in a series of community-building events, professional development, and colloquia opportunities. He will also oversee an Alumni Business Cards project, which details alumni’s current profession, area of geography they work in, and more.
Bals says he applied for the ambassador program, as he wants to get involved more in the Department of Geography, especially with ongoing Covid-19.
I know when I was a freshman, I was very nervous. I thought it would be really good to be a mentor for people. I would like to encourage, especially students coming into college, just to try new things, take new classes. - Kyle Bals
He’s most excited about taking students on building tours, getting to know the students, learning about their career aspirations, and possibly giving them advice on classes and other areas of academia. A major goal: helping the department keep the best retention rate possible.
Related to that is another aim to create a mentorship program, so students have someone to talk to, ask questions, go to when they are confused or need help.
“I want to be like the middleman,” he says. “Between students and professors. I don’t want people to be in the dark, not know what’s going on. I want to be an easy person to talk to. I want to be a quick responder. I want to make an impact.
“I know when I was a freshman, I was very nervous. I thought it would be really good to be a mentor for people. I would like to encourage, especially students coming into college, just to try new things, take new classes.
“I also want to gain some skills myself in leadership and public speaking.”
Bals, who’s primary emphasis is in regional and cultural geography, with a secondary emphasis in Geographic Information Science (GIS), has personal goals to make the Dean’s List fall and spring 2021 semesters, and graduate magna cumme laude. Afterward, he may go on for his master’s program in geography, or get a permanent GIS job.
He currently is a GIS intern for a natural gas company in St. Louis. He says he chose geography for a career because he always had a passion for maps and learning about other cultures.
“Since kindergarten, it’s my favorite thing to do,” he says.