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Alumni ambassadors' crucial role

CAAAN, the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network, is Cornell's largest volunteer group, numbering more than 10,000. Its members serve as enthusiastic ambassadors to prospective students and families in all 50 states and in dozens of countries.

Alumni ambassadors play a crucial role in the university's admissions recruitment efforts, meeting individually with freshman applicants, personalizing the admissions process and hosting local receptions for admitted and entering students.

CAAAN is particularly strong on the West Coast, where high school student interest in Cornell has significantly increased in the last couple of decades. For students in West Coast states who might apply to Cornell and be accepted without having set foot on campus, meeting with a CAAAN volunteer is sometimes the student's first direct contact with a Cornellian.

Diane Shakin '83 and Staci Friesel '97 are longtime CAAAN members and advisory council members; Shakin is the west Los Angeles committee chair and Friesel is the San Francisco Bay area chair.

"The heart of CAAAN is alumni who want to sit down with students and share their love and enthusiasm for Cornell," Shakin says.

"One of the most interesting things for students coming from the West Coast," Shakin says, "is the idea of being a Cornellian for life. And that once you're a member of the Cornell family, there are Cornellians everywhere in the world, no matter where you go."

"There are a lot of students [here] who are first-generation Americans," Friesel says. "Many speak different languages in their homes; their families may have never traveled outside California. And it's wonderful to watch, through CAAAN, their education about the university grow, and their excitement as they find [whether] Cornell will be the right fit for them."

"We just had our accepted students reception for the Bay Area, and we had two university trustees there. That says something about how important everyone feels about yielding great new students," Friesel says.

Many CAAAN volunteers stay connected to the students with whom they meet throughout the students' years at Cornell. "That cycle, and that relationship, is really special out here," she says.

– Joe Wilensky

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