The Shelley Ambassador Program
The Shelley Ambassador Program (SAP) is a student volunteer program housed within the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center with the goal of aiding in the recruitment efforts of Black students to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Trained student leaders host panels, workshops and assist with campus wide visit days by sharing their stories and experiences.
The Shelley Ambassador Program first became active in the Fall of 2016. Tekita Bankhead, former Assistant Director of BNAACC, birthed the program with the goal of increasing visibility, accessibility and increased Black student representation on campus.
The Shelley Ambassador Program, gets its name from Clarence Shelley. Shelley, a former Dean of Students and Associate Vice Chancellor, dedicated over 33 years to the University of Illinois. He is best known for trailblazing paths of diversity, equity, and inclusion through his first position on campus as the Director of the Special Educational Opportunities Program (SEOP) in 1968. SEOP is popularly know today as Project 500.
Activated by students and supported by various faculty and staff, Project 500, demanded that the enrollment of Black students be increased by 500 students by the start of the 1969 academic year. They were sucessfull in this effort and Shelley solidified himself as a prominent leader whose inclusive recruitment practices made him the perfect person to name this program after. His legacy shows us the best of what is possible when we truly champion students, their needs and inclusion work.