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MNCH ambassadors connect culture and campus

On 15th Avenue, sandwiched between Global Scholars Hall and the University of Oregon School of Law, sits the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. You’ve probably passed by the building on your way to class, but how much do you really know about the MNCH?

For a lot of students at UO, the answer to that question is probably “not too much.” That’s where the museum’s Student Ambassadors Program comes in.

The MNCH’s Student Ambassadors Program is a group of students who work to connect the museum and the student body. The group hosts a variety of outreach events, from the “de-stressing” dead week craft parties to its signature once-a-month trivia night at the museum.

First year student Chelsey Luiz, a member of the Student Ambassadors program, sees events like trivia night as essential to the campus-museum connection.

“There are so many students who have come to trivia and said that they didn’t even know we had a museum on campus,” Luiz said. “I think if we didn’t have these opportunities that this program is providing, then students wouldn’t have that awareness.”

The fun, competitive atmosphere of trivia night has been consistently successful.

“We haven’t really had a problem getting people to our events,” senior ambassador Erin Christ said. “That’s been a great thing — we’ve had good turnouts.”

Christ added, however, that the Ambassadors program has faced challenges in the past. When she joined the program in February of 2013, it had been around for a long time but was in the process of creating a stronger presence on campus.

“For a while we had a really difficult time with getting people to join,” Christ said. “We’d been really trying to get freshman in, but we really weren’t reaching any freshmen.”

This fall, the ambassadors increased their presence at events like the Week of Welcome’s Flock Party.

“I think a lot of (the group’s success) has to do with the outreach efforts and recruitment efforts early on fall term,” group advisor Steve Dobrinich said.

Luiz was one of the freshmen to take notice of these efforts, and she’s glad she did.

“I definitely would say that it’s helped me, especially in connecting me with upper-division and graduate students,” she said.

Christ has been a part of the Ambassadors program for almost three years and shares Luiz’s positive experience.

“I just think the group just really attracts the right kind of energy. We’re all just so passionate about being there, so we have a fun time together,” she said.

These interpersonal relationships are a fringe benefit to the core work of the ambassadors: promoting all the MNCH has to offer. Dobrinich sees the museum as an often overlooked and extremely valuable tool.

“The museum is a huge resource for students who are interested in geology, anthropology, or history in general,” Dobrinich said. “I think it offers a lot of different levels of engagement.” Admission is free, and exhibits focus on multiple aspects of natural history in the Pacific Northwest.

For the ambassadors, the MNCH is more than just a hub of information. It has become, for some of the more dedicated, a home.

“The museum vibe is just right for me,” Christ said. “It’s my favorite place on campus.”

The next MNCH Ambassadors Trivia Night is May 20 in the museum’s Galleria. For more information about the museum and the Ambassadors program, visit the museum’s website or email [email protected]

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Rachel Benner

Rachel Benner

Rachel is a Theatre writer for the Arts and Culture Desk.