Public Health Ambassadors Program boosts its staff

Students attend a Public Health Ambassadors Program meet and greet event in the fall semester. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

Students attend a Public Health Ambassadors Program meet and greet event in the fall semester. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

Public Health Ambassadors Program boosts its staff

By Ashley A. Williams
The number of ambassadors has been increased from 75 to 100 as the University continues to support a safe environment and help students adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge the global community, a year after the first confirmed case of the virus in the United States, students at the University of Miami continue to do their part to avert the spread. With the spring semester operating similarly to last fall, the Butler Center for Service and Leadership announced its plan to add additional students to fill the role as public health ambassadors.

“We have increased the number of student public health ambassadors from 75 to 100 for the spring, and our staff and dean of students will continue to follow up on any reports of students not abiding by the measures in place to keep everyone healthy,” President Julio Frenk said in a video message to the University community earlier this week. 

To continue supporting a safe learning and working environment for students, faculty, and employees, ambassadors will continue to share guidelines on the Coral Gables Campus this semester by offering support and utilizing peer-to-peer influence in order to encourage members of the campus community to engage in the healthy behaviors of physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and hand washing/sanitizing.

Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center, said ambassadors will be hosting additional meet-and-greet programs to increase their presence and visibility among the campus community. 

“The public health ambassadors are heroes on our campus,” said Wiemer. “We want to allow our UM community to meet them and continue their positive relationship.”

Last semester, the cohort proved to be a benefit to the campus community. Most of the workers reported that the overall reaction to their presence was positive and recounted respectful interactions with the public.

“In this role, sometimes they have had to encounter several situations that have provided them with skills such as conflict management and positive communication,” said Wiemer. “I believe they have gained numerous leadership skills that will stay with them throughout their lifetime.”

Similar to the fall semester, students, faculty, and staff can expect the presence of public health ambassadors in high-traffic areas including the Student Center Complex, Whitten Learning Center, and Richter Library. They will be there on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., and weekends between noon and 5 p.m. When ambassadors observe someone who is not complying with COVID-19 campus policies, they are tasked with approaching them to resolve the violation. 

The public health ambassador’s role is one of the most challenging student positions on campus, Wiemer acknowledged. During training, ambassadors are made aware of their great responsibility to the campus community and are fully prepared to handle situations that may occur.

Sophomore Louisa Khan will return to campus as an ambassador this spring. 

“One thing I am looking forward to is meeting students who are on campus for the first time since the pandemic,” said Khan, who hails from Satellite Beach, Florida, and majors in music. “Last semester we proved with our low case numbers that we are being safe and being on campus is safe.”

Khan said she is excited to show more people how the University chooses to adapt and respond to the pandemic and how ambassadors are committed to protecting students, faculty, and staff.

“We’re just regular students,” said Khan. “They think we’re here to yell at them and be angry, but we’re just students who are here to do our part and slow down the spread.”

In addition to the Public Health Ambassadors Program, the Division of Student Affairs encourages students to report concerns about unsafe behaviors to ’Canes Care for ’Canes. An online form can be submitted, anonymously if desired, and University staff members will follow up.