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Student health ambassadors engage with peers about campus COVID-19 protocols

Texas Woman’s University’s Department of Risk Management has collaborated with the Office of Student Life to create a new on-campus job opportunity for the university’s Denton location: public health ambassador.

Public health ambassadors are responsible for enforcing safety protocols and public health recommendations to students on campus. Since Sept. 28., ambassadors have been monitoring high-traffic areas and buildings and attending university events to provide additional support in promoting public health compliances. 

Establishing the student-led committee stemmed from the chancellor’s cabinet concerns with helping student adapt to the “cultural expectations of the new normal,” as well as the Office of Student Life’s urge to provide more campus job opportunities as the number of positions have decreased due to the pandemic, executive director of Risk Management Matt Moustakas said. He said that Monica Mendez-Grant, vice president for Student Life, proposed the idea of ambassadors, believing that both issues could be solved by creating this position.

“When developing the purpose of the position, we had some pretty good ideas as far as the job consisting of gentle reminders to passing students,” Moustakas said. “It isn’t supposed to be like some sort of mask police.”  

Candidates for the job were chosen based on their likeliness to engage in discussions concerning the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing, as well as their ability to act as student role models.

“It’s one thing to see faculty and staff wear masks, socially distance and wash their hands, but it’s a totally different thing to see your peers do the same thing,” Kelsey Griffith, environmental health and safety specialist, said. “So far, we’ve had a great response. Many of our ambassadors are reporting that sometimes they don’t even have to tell people to even wear their masks.” 

“It’s amazing to see the culture change in such a short time.”

With the addition of public health ambassadors on campus, the Department of Risk Management said that they hope to align with the university’s slogan of  “Campus with a Heart” by providing a community that takes the extra steps to take into consideration the health and well-being of the students. University spokesperson Matthew Flores said he has seen the difference that public health ambassadors have been making on campus through social media, where students have been expressing their gratitude for the establishment of a team that is meant for maintaining the safety and health of those at the university. 

Ambassadors are not only available for students roaming the campus but also for those in quarantine and isolation, as students can reach out to risk management and be assigned an ambassador that they can speak with throughout the semester based on their needs.

Public health ambassadors set to serve for both the fall and spring semesters, with the high possibility of a recurrence for the next school year. In the case that the pandemic settles and the original purpose of the committee lessens, the option of keeping the ambassadors even after the pandemic is an idea that risk management is open to. 

“I would love to see it adapt to different public health guidelines,” Griffith said. “Having some public health presence on campus is something I personally think would be great.” 

Gakenia Njenga can be reached via email

Lasso file photo by Sarah Pham.

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