Students Share Their Love for KGI While Supporting and Inspiring Future Students in the Admissions Ambassador Program

The Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) experience can be life-changing for many students. Some students channel their appreciation into becoming passionate advocates for the school through the KGI Admissions Ambassador Program.

The program—led by Director of Admissions Nathan Araujo and Admissions Assistant Hayden Rodgers—consists of current KGI students and alums. They help promote KGI while serving prospective students by providing campus tours, connecting with students via email and phone, and participating in webinars, panels, and marketing campaigns.

To become an ambassador, students must apply to the program and interview with the admissions selection panel. Ambassadors meet monthly and hear from guest speakers from within and outside KGI.

“What’s remarkable is that these students self-select to be ambassadors voluntarily,” Araujo said. 

Ambassadors do not get paid or earn credit. However, they receive a letter of recommendation upon successfully completing the program.

“I’ve written many medical school letters of recommendation,” Araujo said. “Other than that, their main incentive to participate is simply because they love their school and speaking to students previously in their shoes. It’s always gratifying for Hayden and myself to work with these students who are so busy yet still take time to get involved.”

Hearing KGI students speak about their experiences can have a very persuasive effect on prospective students.

“When a KGI student or alum talks about their journey, it means a lot and ends up changing the whole dynamic of any event we’re hosting,” Araujo said. “It ends up hitting home for many students who might be on the fence or have concerns about whether they’re qualified when they hear from someone who has recently been in their shoes.”

According to Rodgers, ambassadors naturally embody KGI’s mission to attract students from diverse walks of life.

“This is what drew them to KGI in the first place and what now makes them want to advocate for KGI,” Rodgers said. “Also, ambassadors talk a lot about access to faculty and resources. We have a few who frequently tell stories about being able to walk into the office of a particular faculty member and get valuable advice, which resonates with prospective students.”

When assigning roles to ambassadors, they try to utilize everyone’s strengths while at the same time helping students to build confidence and learn new skills.

“We get that some people are more comfortable than others when it comes to speaking publicly or being part of a marketing campaign,” Araujo said. “But at the same time, some end up being pleasantly surprised at what they can do by the end of the year.”

Ambassadors come from all KGI programs and schools.

“It’s nice because they’re meeting their peers from other programs and learning from each other,” Araujo said.

Two exceptional ambassadors are named KGI Admissions Ambassador of the Year each year. The admissions committee selects one winner, while their fellow ambassadors choose the other.

Ann-Michelle Arias, PharmD ’25, Tracey Blanco, PPC ’22, and MS ’23 were the winners this year.

“We are so appreciative of Michelle and Tracey for their tireless work to engage our prospective students and promote KGI to our visitors,” Araujo said. 

This is Arias’s second year to win the award. She was inspired to become an ambassador after first being exposed to the program while applying to KGI’s School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

“I heard a few of the pharmacy students in the ambassador program sharing their stories, and I could relate to all of them,” Arias said. “I had no idea what I was supposed to do moving forward to get accepted, but they helped me to figure out what I was missing and to navigate the last part of the admissions process.”

After completing her interviews, she was invited to a summer social. She was standing in the corner when an ambassador approached her and introduced herself. 

“She was so friendly,” Arias said.

“I thought, ‘I want to be that person, too.’ I wanted to make that transition less scary for people with the same feelings as me.”

She emphasizes the importance of personal connections when connecting with new and prospective students.

“It’s not just about who has the top scores,” Arias said. “They need to realize that this is going to be their home for the next four years, so being able to bond with faculty and classmates makes an impact.”

Arias has enjoyed mentoring prospective students who reach out to her, and that support continues as they embark on their KGI journey.

“I always open that door and offer my friendship and advice, as long as needed,” Arias said.

Blanco completed KGI’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate and recently graduated with a Masters of Science in Applied Life Sciences. As a first-generation, non-traditional college student, she understands the struggles of navigating academia without proper mentorship or guidance. 

“That’s why being part of the admissions team has been so fulfilling for me,” Blanco said. “I’ve had the opportunity to connect with prospective students, share my journey, and guide those who may have faced similar challenges as myself.”

One highlight was connecting with prospective students during a Visit Day who went on to become her classmates.

“It’s incredible to witness the impact of my words and experiences on their decision to join KGI,” Blanco said. “I will always cherish connecting with individuals during visit days and individual Zoom meetings and witnessing their transformation into my future colleagues.”

She is grateful to Araujo for his guidance during her application process as a prospective student and to the entire admissions team for entrusting her with the role of admissions ambassador.

“Through my role as an admissions ambassador, I have been able to pay it forward by sharing my experiences, offering guidance, and inspiring prospective students from diverse backgrounds to pursue their academic and professional goals, just as I was supported and guided during my journey,” Blanco said. “As I embark on my journey to become a physician, I aspire to utilize the skills gained through my ambassadorship and mentorship roles to connect with and provide compassionate care to my future patients as a physician.”

Learn more about the Admissions Ambassador Program and how to apply.