Orientation leadersget rigorous training

Tina Joneja

For many University students, the end of spring quarter means a chance to forget about classes until September. But for students training to be orientation and registration leaders, the next school year has already begun.
University orientation leaders have been preparing next fall’s orientation and registration for incoming students since they were selected last December. These students are being trained to provide new students with information and resources to help them adjust to life at the University.
Orientation leader applicants must complete four interviews with orientation coordinators and must have strong communication skills, active listening, commitment and motivation.
Work as an orientation leader at the University can be a daunting task. Orientation leaders meet for one four-hour session a week from the beginning of winter quarter until July, orientation co-coordinator Christopher Pavlick said. “The orientation leaders put in so much training and so much work, I don’t think people realize how much preparation goes into this,” he said.
From the end of July until mid-August leaders must make themselves available for training 24 hours a day. For a six-week period from mid-August until the beginning of fall quarter classes, the leaders move into Middlebrook Hall and meet daily from before 7 a.m. until about 11 p.m., Jen Carlson, the other orientation co-coordinator, said.
The 24 leaders are responsible for the orientation of more than 10,000 students. Last year the University’s orientation program involved more students than any other program in the United States, according to University senior Jen Carlson, one of this year’s two orientation coordinators.
Orientation programs vary among the schools because of size, but it has been found beneficial to share new topic ideas and program strategies. The New Student Programs organization, which plans and sponsors the New Student Weekend, Graduate Student Orientation and Parent Orientation, meets annually with other colleges to share new topic ideas and program strategies at the National Orientation Director’s Associaton conference.
The University’s orientation program is one or two days within a five-week period, while smaller schools generally have a three- or four-day orientation during their first week.
Topics discussed in student orientation sessions include conflict management, racial meaning, bias, homophobia and time management. The programs are intended to increase student awareness of current student issues.
Carlson and Pavlick train and provide speakers to help orientation leaders discuss topics that will be presented to new students.
Orientation leader Brooke Darst said the program has given her new perspectives on student experiences. Darst has been involved in Come Walk a Mile with Me, an orientation program which encourages participants to see the world from the eyes of others.
Last month the group held signs asking for food on campus streets to learn about those who must do this regularly. “I’ve been involved with a lot of campus activities. This program has been the best experience I’ve had so far,” Darst said.