Elkton senior Jason Seay came to Western wanting to become a pharmacist or pediatrician. He will graduate next week with a bachelor’s degree in general studies. Two words changed Seay’s major: Spirit Masters.
The student ambassador program was created after communication professor Carl Kell visited the University of Alabama in 1981. Kell modeled the Spirit Masters after Alabama’s university men and women ambassadors.
Larger schools such as Clemson University and the University of Georgia have ambassadors for some of their individual departments, Kell said.
Murray State and the University of Kentucky also have ambassador programs, Seay said.
Students who are part of the group serve as tour guides and recruiters as well, said Spirit Master adviser Jeff Younglove.
Officially, the Spirit Masters are a part of Western’s public relations office, chairperson Nichole Johnson said.
After being active in high school clubs, Seay had planned to stay out of campus activities during his freshman year. He’d lost some of his interest in activities and wanted to focus on classes.
During the summer, however, Seay worked as a MASTER Plan leader. A co-worker suggested he would make a good Spirit Master.
The responsibilities that a MASTER Plan leader has are similar to a Spirit Master’s, Seay said.
Kell said that when a student meets a Spirit Master at an OAR session, they sometimes become Spirit Masters themselves. It becomes a tradition passed down from father to son, he said. Spirit Masters also join because they are used to helping others.
“Some people realize the road of life is a two-way street,” Kell said.
Spirit Masters’ responsibilities include directing students to shuttles and answering questions from parents during OAR sessions, Seay said.
They also work in the hospitality room at athletic events and help with functions at the president’s house, Younglove said.
In certain situations, Spirit Masters serve as tour guides to athletic recruits, grade school students, donors and alumni, Younglove said. The Spirit Master tours are separate from Western’s official tours that are given for prospective students.
During the fall semester, Western holds an open house for prospective students in hotels in several cities throughout Kentucky. Spirit Masters greet the students and lead them to speak with faculty. Acting as recruiters, Spirit Masters travel to Nashville, Louisville and Evansville, Ind. to meet with students and their families.
Each Spirit Master spends 100-150 hours a year recruiting for Western, Younglove said.
Seay said he spent at least 200 hours recruiting his first year as a Spirit Master.
Before he could become a Spirit Master, Seay had to interview for the volunteer position.
During the first round of interviews, potential Spirit Masters answer questions from judges about their knowledge of Western and their ability to communicate with others, Seay said.
Students who make it to the second round of interviews are questioned by the advisory committee.
Younglove said the questions resemble a job interview.
One thing the Spirit Masters make clear during the second round is that they are not resume filler, Seay said.
Not even returning Spirit Masters are guaranteed a spot for the upcoming year. They have to sign a letter of intent to come back, but it’s not an automatic bid, Younglove said.
Spirit Masters are required to have at least sophomore status and maintain a 2.5 grade point average to stay with the group, he said.
The group also prefers students who are already active on campus, Seay said.
Younglove said the interviews are as detailed as possible because Spirit Masters work on a “different level” than most organizations at Western.
Out of the average 50 people who apply to be a Spirit Master, only 32 can be chosen.
After the new class has been accepted as Spirit Masters, it is tradition for the new class to meet the old class in front of Cherry Hall at midnight. Seay remembers the older members telling him about lifelong friends they made because of Spirit Masters.
Johnson said the Spirit Masters are important to attracting students to Western.
“We play a big role, whether or not they come to Western,” she said.
Reach Bobby Harrell at [email protected]