The NHIOP Celebrates Student Ambassador Chairs Jenifer Wallitsch ‘21 and Ryan Heath ’22
May 7, 2021
Due to the implementation of new health and safety regulations presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ (NHIOP) Kevin B. Harrington student ambassadors have had a particularly challenging responsibility for maintaining engagement. The two chairs, Jenifer Wallitsch ‘21 and Ryan Heath ’22 have played an integral role in preserving the institute’s impact and student engagement.
The Kevin B. Harrington Ambassador Program provides students with an opportunity to facilitate various events, initiatives, and activities at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. Ordinarily, the program is a hands-on approach to event programming and in-person activities. Traditionally, ambassadors have worked closely with NHIOP staff and assisted with welcoming guests, VIPs and serve as greeters and moderators during press conferences. The ambassador program provides students with an advantageous career opportunity meant to give a first-hand view of many NHIOP programs. With the given circumstances, Wallitsch and Heath have brainstormed new ideas to engage the campus in accordance with health restrictions.
Senior politics and criminal justice major Jenifer Wallitsch became a student ambassador in the second semester of her freshman year. Her favorite accomplishment as an ambassador is becoming the program’s chair, a goal she has had since her first year on campus.
“I came to Saint A's knowing I wanted to be involved and hoped that one day I could work hard enough to become the chair of the program. The institute’s mission to engage, empower, and educate resonated with me. I knew that becoming a Kevin B. Harrington Ambassador would give me a front-row seat for both New Hampshire and national politics and that it would provide me the opportunity to learn in a place unlike anywhere else in the country!”
Ryan Heath, a junior economics, and marketing major also became an ambassador in his freshman year. Heath’s curiosity in the program was sparked by his interest in political polling, working in a tv studio, and attending events run by major news networks. Heath mentions that one of his most significant accomplishments as an ambassador was improving the program’s collectivity and inclusion, which was challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, Heath is the junior chair of the program and will assume Wallitsch’s role as senior chair in the coming year. Together, the two chairs leave a legacy of determination, resolve, and creativity. The ambassador program engages students in many on-campus activities. This past fall, the pair organized an outdoor screening of the 2020 President Debates hosted on the alumni quad, with social distancing, and refreshments. Events like this play an influential role in connecting the institute with the student body at Saint Anselm College.
Another initiative created by the ambassador chairs is a mentorship program for new ambassadors that aims to help them get involved and become part of the team with mentorship from an upperclassman. The mentorship allows for more participation and a more friendly environment for new ambassadors to thrive in a remote hybrid setting. With the help of the mentors, the ambassador program hosted multiple icebreakers and other creative activities to motivate and support new members.
This initiative is a perfect example of the engagement and creativity that helped the ambassador program succeed throughout tumultuous times. Neil Levesque, the director of the NHIOP, spoke about the chair’s perseverance and determination throughout the year.
“Despite the constraints of the pandemic, Jen and Ryan have been overcoming every challenge with a positive attitude and forward-looking outlook,” Levesque explained. “We all know it’s been challenging, particularly in a social business like politics where personal contact is so intertwined. Nevertheless, the ambassador program is robust and energized, and it is completely the result of the fine leadership of Jen and Ryan.”