You can spot them by their purple polo shirts. Just as LSU Ambassadors are distinguished by wearing yellow, the Advocates’ purple polos have become a recognizable symbol on campus.
Comprised of about sixty Honors College students, the Honors College Advocates are a deceptively small organization — their impact far exceeds their numbers.
Established in 1999 by Perry Prestholdt (who also started the Ambassadors), the Advocates serve to recruit academically motivated high school students, assist incoming Honors College freshmen with the transition to college, and promote the Honors College.
“It’s been one of the only organizations I’ve been in that I have thrown myself into entirely, and [joining the Advocates] has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made in college,” said biology sophomore Devin Conway, who said he loves being able to share his own experiences with prospective students.
“The Honors College is a really easy sell,” he said.
By telling prospective students about their own experiences as an LSU Honors College student, they serve as the best example of what the program has to offer.
“I like being an Advocate because it’s a unique opportunity to potentially influence someone’s decision to attend LSU or join the Honors College,” said Catherine Fontenot, a biology sophomore. “LSU has been such a great place for me.”
Such enthusiasm, a characteristic of all of the outgoing Advocates, says more than any pamphlet or statistic ever could. As a result, these students are an invaluable resource to the Honors College.
They serve at many recruiting events, including student receptions, French House tours, Kickoff LSU, Academic Showcase, and Spring Invitational, their biggest event of the year.
At Spring Invitational (SPIN) — an orientation and testing event for academically talented students — the Advocates are present in full force. They greet prospective students and their parents, answer questions about the Honors College and its programs, and they even assist students in constructing a class schedule.
Advocates also try to clear up misconceptions about the Honors College and make it seem more accessible.
“A lot of students think it’s very centered on liberal arts and not science-oriented, but the Honors College is open to all majors,” said biochemistry senior Michelle Nguyen, who serves as the Training and Cohesion chairperson. “And there’s a perception that if you’re in the program, you have to study all the time … that’s one of the things that I try to set straight.”
Not only do the Advocates participate in on-campus recruitment, but they also reach out to prospective Honors students through Tiger Calls and high school visits. Advocates individually call high achieving students and they visit high schools across Louisiana to answer questions about LSU or the Honors College and provide information.
While recruiting high school students is their number one goal, the Advocates also strive to foster a sense of community among current Honors College students by encouraging involvement in various co-curricular activities.
Just as they strive to expose incoming freshmen to the many opportunities offered by LSU, they also hope to show their peers how to make the most of their college experience.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to work with this organization,” said Jeremy Joiner, an academic advisor at the Honors College who has served as the advisor to the Advocates since 2004. “I like being with this group of students and seeing them develop as young professionals.”
Joiner said that being an Advocate helps Honors students to become more professional by requiring them to act as representatives of the University and giving them various leadership opportunities.
“The five student co-chairs (who run the organization) each handle different responsibilities,” he said. “They learn about event planning and coordination, and how to make fair decisions for an organization of their peers. “
Joiner emphasized the importance of the Advocates in recruiting prospective students.
“It’s different for a staff member to describe the program than someone who’s actually going through the program,” he said.
Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831