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'Ambassadors' preach Google gospel on campus

Google student "ambassadors" at Emory University in Atlanta set up a table on campus to promote Google products.
Google student "ambassadors" at Emory University in Atlanta set up a table on campus to promote Google products.
  • Google Ambassadors serve as liaisons between colleges and the tech company
  • The program is active at 85 colleges throughout the United States and Canada
  • Ambassadors get to test out Google products to promote on campus

(CNN) -- One recent afternoon Emory University senior Emily Rubin gathered some 80 students in a campus meeting room to serve pizza, hand out free stuff and raise awareness about a global cause.

Clean water? Animal rights? Japan earthquake relief?

Nope. Google.

Rubin and her group gave live demonstrations on the Atlanta, Georgia, campus about such products as Google Voice, Chrome, Google Cloud Connect, the Google and Teach for America Partnership, and many more.

The audience walked away with new knowledge about the giant tech company and tons of Google swag: T-shirts, speakers, sunglasses, Silly Bandz, socks and messenger bags. Some Emory students, encouraged to make their own videos explaining the ways they use Google, even took Rubin up on the offer.

"We got some great attendance through our ... booth promotion the previous Monday, email blasts and online invites," Rubin said. "We filled the room to more than capacity."

Rubin isn't just raving about Google for kicks and giggles. She's part of the Google Ambassador Program, which is offered to technologically inclined students who are willing to be liaisons between Google and their college campuses. These chosen few eat, breathe, sleep and dream Google -- and try to spread their enthusiasm to their classmates.

The program is underway at 85 universities and colleges throughout the United States and Canada and is expanding to other areas of the world, including Japan, Singapore, India and parts of Africa.

Although the ambassador program was once offered only to computer science and engineering students, Google now recruits among all majors, from anthropology to zoology.

"We look for students who are enthusiastic about technology and active on their campus," says Miriam Schneider, Google's product marketing manager. "We seek to be inclusive of all types of students -- regardless of major -- and generally look for students who are involved in on-campus groups, programs and clubs and have demonstrated an ability to exude Google's culture and values."

Two-thirds of Google's ambassadors start as interns with the company in engineering, business operations, sales or marketing. After their internships end, many want to continue working with the company in some capacity -- so that's where the program comes in.

In 2010, approximately 1,200 college students filled internships at Google and a small percentage of them went on to become Google Ambassadors.

"By interacting directly with our ambassadors, we are able to better understand the challenges that students face today," says Schneider. "We can then use this knowledge to create tools and solutions that address those challenges. Our ambassadors represent the general student voice on their respective campuses."

Google campus events

As new products roll out, Google ships its latest Android phones and TVs embedded with Google TV software to each campus ambassador, who familiarize themselves with them before holding promotional events on campus.

For example, when the company introduced its Google TV application, it sent one to ambassador Jan Jorgenson, a sophomore at Arizona State University, who threw a party to showcase the product's features and potential.

"The big football game this year [ASU versus the University of Arizona] was away, so a lot of students wanted a place to watch it," Jorgensen said by phone from the Tempe, Arizona campus.

"I teamed up with Residential Life to do a viewing party with lots of pizza and subs. Fifty to 100 people showed up throughout the game, and we rooted for the team with Google foam fingers and megaphones."

Google encourages the ambassadors to host about five such events per year, although students may hold more or less depending on their own personal goals and interests.

The ambassadors, who are not paid by Google, continuously keep their campuses engaged in a number of ways.

"I always like to think of new ways to use Google products," said Kenny Franks, a senior at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. "If a professor needs to talk to the class, I recommend using Google Groups. Now, some professors on campus only use that to communicate with their students."

Questions, answers ... and swag

Ambassadors say they enjoy the program because they get to work closely with their fellow students to answer questions about technology. This, they say, gets them thinking about ways to improve Google products and adapt them for a larger audience.

"We learn as much from the students as they learn from us," said Emory's Rubin.

The ambassadors also see themselves as liaisons between their campuses and the Mountain View, California, company. They inform their fellow students about scholarship and internship programs within Google -- opportunities that they often have taken advantage of themselves.

Although the students are volunteers, they play a key role in Google's outreach to young consumers. They're trained on how to use Google software and are given the opportunity to help develop new products.

Some of them even go on to get jobs with Google after graduation.

And, let's be honest: They get a lot of free stuff.

"My favorite aspect [about being an ambassador]? Immediately, I want to say swag," said Franks with a laugh.

"But I enjoy getting the word out about Google," he added.


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