These seventeen young people – Bachelors, Masters and PhD students studying Architecture, Law, Chemistry, Computer Science, and more – all had something in common: a passion to use technology to empower their academic communities and to inspire students to help change their world for the better. These are the students we selected to become pioneer Google Student Ambassadors in South Africa (SA). They came from five SA universities – University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria, University of the Free State, Vaal University of Technology and Rhodes University.
On 18th July, Nelson Mandela Day, we brought the Ambassadors together in Johannesburg, for a 2-day orientation and team-building program. The Google SA team trained them on various products – from Mobile, Google Apps for Education, Translation Toolkit, to Search for Educators. Event planning sessions helped prepare them for a fun year of Googley campus events ahead. The following day, they attended their first official event as Ambassadors – Google Engage for advertising Agencies, alongside over 400 attendees.
The SA Google Student Ambassadors at the Orientation program in Jo’burg
Ambassador Wanga Mbasa, a Mechanical Engineering Student at University of Pretoria, said that the Mandela Day was the perfect starting point for the Ambassador program because of the opportunity for this very diverse group of people to share ideas and experiences. Wanga said the knowledge gained from the Google SA team, especially about projects like Umbono, has inspired him to ensure that he brings change and sustainability to his campus during his time as an Ambassador.
Happy days! They each went home with a Samsung Galaxy Android phone donated by Samsung
So, what will the Ambassadors be doing over the next year? They’ll be holding events on campus to help raise awareness about the internet, Google technologies and opportunities that Google provides for the academic community. For Gerald Nondia, an Information Technology student at Vaal University of Technology, the Ambassadors’ mission will be to pass their newfound knowledge to fellow students, first by promoting web technologies and second, by teaching and training students on how to use these technologies. For example, Matthew Boswell, a Computer Science & Information Systems student at Rhodes University, said that learning about Google Docs has changed his whole perspective on how to approach group assignments and, with the Android phone, he’ll put his new knowledge into practise.
The most exciting moment was at the end of the orientation, after an Android training and demo session, when we surprised the new Ambassadors with a box full of Samsung Galaxy Android phones donated by Samsung SA for them to keep! They couldn’t believe their eyes, as one Ambassador shouted “Happy days are here, happy days are here!”
Earlier in the year, we launched the Student Ambassador program in Ghana and Nigeria selecting 47 Ambassadors from 13 universities to serve as our Ambassadors for 2011-2012 term. To learn more about the Ambassador and other university programs, visit http://www.google.com/africa/universityprograms/