New Student Weekend retreat searching for leaders

New Student Weekend coordinators are hopeful that applications will rush in at the last minute.

Branden Peterson

The University campus and its more than 60,000 students can be a daunting surprise to new students. In hopes of preparing new students for a dramatic transition, New Student Weekend coordinators bus approximately 800 students to a three-day retreat to teach them how to have a positive college experience.

Current University students who lead and organize groups of first-year students throughout the retreat are key to the program. But this year, program coordinators are facing a few extra challenges.

Last year, approximately 120 undergraduates conducted the retreat held at four camps 30-50 miles outside the Twin Cities area.

This year, only 80 leader applications have been filed since the beginning of December.

With less than a week remaining before the Feb. 5 deadline, organizers are hoping students surprise them by turning in a rush of applications at the last minute.

“Usually, people turn it in the last day it’s due, but we’re trying to keep that from happening because we’d really like to see 200 applicants,” said University junior and New Student Weekend coordinator Paul Villella.

Villella said the group’s move back to Coffman Union might be partly to blame for the shortage in applicants. The move stalled online applications and possibly discouraged students from applying because they could not locate New Student Weekend organizers with questions.

Organizers say New Student Weekend offers an exceptional opportunity for any University student who wants to work on leadership skills and meet new people.

Villella said the group might push back its application deadline, but it is unlikely. He said if more students do not apply, counselors who are selected might be leading larger groups of students.

“We’re looking for students who want to be involved on campus and have an interest in helping new students adjust to the University,” said Jennifer Rachmaciej, assistant director of Orientation and First-Year Programs.

“This is an entry-level leadership position. You don’t have to have all kinds of experience and know-how. We’re going to train you and help you to gain those skills.”

Selected students will train every Tuesday evening for the remainder of the semester from 6-9 p.m. Although meetings last as long as many night classes, organizers say they’re anything but regular classes.

“It’s really just a social period,” Villella said. “Sure, they have to be there, but we make it fun.”

An extension of summer orientation, Rachmaciej said, New Student Weekend gives incoming students “a chance to get to campus, make some friends, learn about the University and gain some knowledge before they actually start their classes.

“By having NSW, they have an initial group of friends, some familiar faces or someone that they can talk to if they have questions. That’s what helps make them feel a part of campus and make them want to stay here,” she said.

Organizers said a majority of former leaders enjoyed their experiences with New Student Weekend.

“We really hear a lot of good things,” Villella said. “It’s one of those programs where it’s fun to be involved Ö it really helps them with the rest of their University career.”

Deadline for applications is 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Students can fill out an application in the Orientation and First-Year Programs office in 315 Coffman Union or online at www.ofyp.umn.edu.