Anice Rodrigues Barbosa Digital Marketing Director Wheaton College Massachusetts Norton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Credit: Keith Nordstrom
The social media ambassador program at Wheaton College is made up of three student workers who work alongside the marketing and communications staff to create short-form video content and photography to tell the college’s story on social media platforms.
In the past two years, the Massachusetts, U.S., college evaluated the program to better align it with institutional diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging goals, and generated change throughout the college. Anice Rodrigues Barbosa’s team created systemic practices that continue to generate growth within the program and division.
What inspired the decision to revamp the social media ambassador program to better align with institutional DEIB goals?
In light of George Floyd’s murder in 2020, the DEIB discussion came to a head at Wheaton, as it did for many institutions. Wheaton has a long history of doing DEIB work; even prior to 2020, we already had a structure within the college called DEAL (Diversity, Equity, and Access Leadership), and within that work we were looking at how we could entrench DEIB into our systemic functions. There were lots of conversations about the content that we create for social media.
In 2020, we received a piece of feedback that our ambassadors were not reflective of the student population. This came from somebody who had previously applied for the position and didn’t get it, and I had a fragility response: “But I gave you the opportunity; you interviewed, and you just didn’t pan out to be the best candidate.” I wrestled a lot with that and evaluated the work that we were doing.
I started soliciting feedback and asking about barriers previous applicants saw to entry. As part of our application process, we required a work sample of a video or photos from a high school experience, and it turned out that the students who went to schools with more resources had better materials. It was that light bulb moment for us. We changed the application process and made our equipment available to applicants.
We post our open positions publicly but [in the past] we would rely heavily on referrals from the admissions office from their ambassador pool. I had created this tiny circle of “who knows who.” We didn’t get rid of the referral program completely, but we did expand the sources of referrals to faculty, staff, and even students themselves. It made for a richer pool of candidates and better relationships with faculty, and we created our own referral list that we can share.