A select group of UO students will serve as ambassadors for this summer’s 2014 Junior World Track Championships —the first time the event has been held in the United States or on any university campus.

“I am just really excited to interact with people my age from different countries and cultures,” said Negina Pirzad, one of the student ambassadors and a Pathway Oregon student majoring in journalism and international studies. “I hope I can build some friendships along the way, help out as much as I can during the events … and just embrace the whole track atmosphere in Eugene, but on such a great scale.”

The selection of the students chosen to be ambassadors was competitive; each will serve as a host for the more than 2,500 athletes from 212 countries to help ensure things run smoothly for the international athletes.

Student ambassadors are receiving both academic and practical training. The academic courses provide theoretical and skill-based foundations and are paired with learning experiences outside the classroom to complement the academic component.

The spring term course the ambassadors currently are enrolled in is Global Sports Business and Society. The curriculum will help shape the students’ preparation through a study of the history, politics, economics and sociology of international sport.

The course also will focus on skills related to cultural competency and conflict management, which will prepare ambassadors to better understand and resolve any challenges that arise during the event.

The summer course is meant to prepare students for the experience immediately before the event. They will learn skills in hospitality, working in both a sporting and international environment and effectively communicating with the athletes.

During the event, student ambassadors will be assigned to a particular country or region based on language abilities. Students will serve as campus tour guides, provide support as assistants or friends and connect athletes to Global Oregon and TrackTown USA.

“From a faculty perspective, it’s a rare opportunity for students to be involved in an international sporting event — that just happens to be here in Eugene, Oregon — and provide a deep service learning opportunity that few students in the world can experience,” said Joshua Gordon, a UO law professor who is teaching Global Sports Business and Society.

“Given the quality of the students involved, I have high expectations for how well they will show the UO to the rest of the world,” said Gordon.

Many UO Ambassadors are multilingual, which should help put the international visitors at ease as the ambassadors guide them around campus throughout the event.

“I wanted to become an ambassador because I saw it as a chance to put my language skills and cultural knowledge to use,” said Pirzad, who speaks English, Arabic, Farsi and French.

Watch this video created by Global Ducks to learn more about this year’s student ambassador program.

 by Sarah MacKenzie, Public Affairs Communications intern