Come Sept. 17, hundreds of Wolverine fans will sport a less popular Football Saturday shade — bright orange.
Those 350 spots of bright orange will be the members of the Under the Lights Ambassador Program, a new service program started by the University’s Division of Student Affairs and the Athletic Department for the upcoming first-ever night game in the Big House. The program calls for 350 volunteers who will help manage crowds and serve as watchful eyes around the city as the Wolverines face off against Notre Dame.
The ambassador program — headed by Mary Jo Desprez, the University’s alcohol and other drug policy and prevention administrator, and Greg Harden, the University’s associate athletic director — is modeled after similar programs at other large sporting events like the Super Bowl. Throughout the day, volunteers’ duties will include giving directions, contacting authorities if necessary and locating lost items.
The purpose of the program is to make the game day experience safe and enjoyable for the entire community, Desprez said.
“When it was announced that the University of Michigan was going to have its first night game, campus and community folks got together and brainstormed, ‘How do we make this a positive new tradition for the city?’” Desprez said.
Members of the University’s Department of Public Safety and the Ann Arbor Police Department visited similar sporting events over the summer to see what safety methods were used to devise a plan for the night game. It was during these visits where the ambassador program was observed. DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said the program will not only add support for public safety officials but will also enhance customer satisfaction at the game.
“We are hopeful that the ambassadors will be able to provide an additional enhancement to patron and visitor safety before, during, and after the Notre Dame football game,” Brown said. “We’re expecting that the ambassadors will be able to help with a lot of those basic questions and be able to help guide patrons where they need to be going.”
The ambassadors will work in four-hour shifts with a central post at the Michigan Union, where a big screen will be set up for the ambassadors to watch the game. Though ambassadors will be posted all around the stadium, tickets inside the Big House won’t be given out to volunteers. Since the game is sold out, Harden said the program also serves as a way to reach out to fans without tickets and bring the community together.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to get involved and for community service projects,” Harden said. “And to create a culture where everyone, even those who aren’t in the game, have a chance to be part of the happening.”
After the game, the program will be evaluated for its effectiveness and efficiency. If the program proves to be successful, it will likely be used at other events, according to Desprez.
“We thought this would be a great pilot of the program to see if that kind of thing would be helpful in Ann Arbor,” Desprez said. “Especially around some of these really big U of M games and rivalries.”
People interested in being an ambassador need to file an application with the Division of Student Affairs by Sept. 5 and will attend a mandatory training session. Desprez said that so far there has been a lot of community members interested, and she hopes the interest extends to students as they arrive on campus this week. If more than 350 people apply for the program, Desprez said she probably won’t turn anyone down.
“I think we have a lot of students who are really community service minded,” Desprez said, “and this might be a really fun way to be a part of the day.”
Harden and Desprez expressed hope that the program will further Wolverine pride in the city and University communities.
“I think the experience is going to show that this is an event that means more than just a win or loss record…” Harden said. “I think this shows the community how together we can do some amazing things, and I think those people who experience it are going to be able to talk a lot about not only their experience but (also) about the city of Ann Arbor and the University.”