students

Taking the time to make a difference

By Deserae E. del Campo

Taking the time to make a difference

By Deserae E. del Campo


From hosting virtual game nights to assisting professors with online teaching lessons, the Dean’s Ambassadors and Learning Assistants in the College of Arts and Sciences create a sense of belonging on campus and do their best to make sure their peers have a stress-free learning experience. The Dean’s Ambassadors, a group of 60 outstanding undergraduate students, are more than just a friendly resource of information for incoming freshmen. They juggle multiple tasks, from hosting campus tours to planning different events through various committees—and they think outside box, especially when the pandemic altered college life and classes transitioned to virtual platforms. The College’s Learning Assistants job placement program follows similar strategies. Their main objective is to help faculty successfully teach online students by fixing any technological delays and glitches. By creating leadership opportunities, giving students a voice, and successfully supporting faculty who are teaching hybrid students during the COVID-19 pandemic, these students not only give back to the U but are active, positive members of the UM community.

Dean’s Ambassador Jayme Podgorowiez 
Class of ’22
Major in Psychology, minor in Religion & Healthcare, Pre-Optometry track

I have learned so much through the Dean’s Ambassador’s program. As a member of the Event Planning Committee, we plan different events that enhance the experience for students, and we create programming to benefit them academically, mentally, and socially. I decided to be a Dean’s Ambassador because I wanted to take on a larger role in the UM community. Additionally, I am a proud ‘Cane and a double legacy student. I transferred to the College in my second semester at the University and I had such a positive experience that I wanted to create the same sentiment for my fellow ’Canes. I applied to the Dean’s Ambassador program when COVID-19 began in the beginning of 2020. However, I can say that being in the middle of a pandemic really pushed us to think outside of the box. With some students on campus, and others remote, coupled with health and safety guidelines, we had to create online programming as well as adapt in-person programming to be safe. The experiences we create as Dean’s Ambassadors are needed now more than ever. Everyone has felt a little disconnected from each other and their stress levels are high; we have used our roles to help students get through this time. A Dean’s Ambassador possesses a will to help others, whether that be assisting current students, running orientations for new students, or hosting Q&A sessions for prospective students. 

Dean’s Ambassador Hannah Marie
Class of ’22
Major in Political Science and Public Administration, minor in Health Management and Policy

I am very passionate about the University of Miami. I truly believe that UM allows students the opportunity to create their own educational experience, and the Dean’s Ambassadors program brings this to life. Even during the pandemic and social distancing, participating as a Dean’s Ambassador still felt as if we were gathering in person. Meeting with Dean Emily Long every other week gave us the opportunity to plan student orientation and engage with each other in an open forum. Returning for the second year, I will continue to serve on the Orientation Committee, which is responsible for planning the orientation experience for the fall and spring semesters. Through this committee, the Dean’s Ambassadors have been able to streamline the experience for new students to incorporate information we wish we had been privy to as newcomers to the College. I am also a panelist on admissions events that seek to show prospective students how the University of Miami, and specifically the College of Arts and Sciences, truly allows one to shape their education in a unique way. I provide insight as to how the University prepares students for life beyond the classroom and helps to connect students to resources that align with their career goals. I actively encourage other students within the College to join the Dean’s Ambassadors program. It allows students to develop close, meaningful relationships with faculty and staff.

Learning Assistant Greg Beeson
Class of ’22
Political Science and Classic Studies major, a minor in International Studies.

Learning Assistants are assigned to professors who request extra assistance in the classroom. For one class, it might be as simple as making sure the computer is on and Zoom is ready for the remote students. I have assisted several professors from different departments: Africana Studies, Biology, Classics, English, International Studies, and Political Science. I love learning, so when this program was presented to me as a way to experience extra classes, I knew it was something I wanted to do. After two semesters, I know that participating in the program was worth it, as it opened the door to research opportunities, extra teaching assistant opportunities, and it has given me to opportunity to work with amazing professors. As a Learning Assistant, I was in the classroom, socially distanced from the professor, making sure Zoom was working, helping ensure a seamless presentation of the material, and making sure the remote students were able to participate. With COVID-19 and the transition to remote learning, the need for adaptability and patience became especially important. Technology does not always work the way we need it to, so we need to be ready to calmly handle it as best we can. I encourage those who have the time and have a strong desire learn. This role provides a unique opportunity to network with faculty and can be hugely helpful for students who might have an interest in teaching.

Learning Assistant Gabriela Hernandez
Class of ‘22
Political Science and Spanish major, Pre-Law track 

The three qualities that helped me the most as a Learning Assistant were patience, problem-solving, and communication. Without those qualities, I would have struggled, and at first, it was a learning process! This was a new experience for me and the professors I assisted—Dr. John Paul Russo and Dr. Charlotte Rogers—were very helpful. I did my best to be a vital asset to them and the students. I made sure the audio was functioning and assignments and PowerPoint presentations were visible to both students in the classroom and online. As a Learning Assistant, I was very involved; supporting the online students was a top priority. I did my best to make sure the technology was functioning, and students were up to date on assignments. This experience really improved my troubleshooting skills. There were times when the online students had difficulty hearing the audio, and that was probably one of the only concerns they had. Sharing the screen with students was also a bit tricky, but I did my best and feel that my role as a Learning Assistant helped provide students with the information they needed for the course. As a Learning Assistant, I was able to see the classroom from the perspective of a professor and teaching a class with students who are online and in the classroom is extremely challenging! This was definitely a learning experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!