Orientation Leaders Deliver High-Energy Welcome
Upperclassmen lead activities, smooth transition to college life
Being an Orientation Leader (OL) at SUNY-ESF is described as a fun, rewarding and challenging job. Every year, 50 upper-class students, under the leadership of the head OLs, train to welcome the freshmen into college life.
Students and faculty at ESF say the OLs, easily identified by their distinctive T-shirts - this year they were bright yellow one day and tie-dyed the next -are outgoing, enthusiastic leaders who enjoy helping others adapt to life at ESF. Kelsey Taylor, a senior conservation biology major and head OL, has the added responsibility of hiring and training the OLs as well as overseeing all of the activities and events.
Taylor said her experience with orientation helped her make a smooth transition from freshman to OL to head OL. She said her favorite part of orientation is "being able to spend time together with the other OLs and the freshmen to make lasting connections."
Laura Crandall, ESF's director of Student Involvement and Leadership is the staff member who oversees the two head OLs and participates in all program development and events. She began planning for this fall after 2012 Commencement. Crandall described the OLs as "high-energy, loud, crazy, school-spirited role models, family and most of all leaders."
The OLs' training is extensive. It ran from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. for the six days before the freshmen arrived on campus. During that time the OLs practiced team-building exercises, discussed problem-solving techniques and interacted with representatives of different offices from campus, such as Student Health and Wellness. They spent a night at Vanderkamp, a retreat in Cleveland, N.Y., which is a highlight of the training week. The night before move-in-day, the OLs enjoyed a dinner catered by Dinosaur Bar-B-Que at President Cornelius B. Murphy Jr.'s house which allows them to interact with the president and let him know what they have been learning. All training activities are designed to bring the OLs closer and help them learn whatever they might need to know.
After the freshmen moved into Centennial Hall Aug. 22, they were assigned one OL to guide them through orientation. Each OL was assigned 10 students known as a "small group." The small groups participate in activities together which allows the OLs to advise their students on a more individual basis and help them explore the campus and surrounding community.
The freshman are led through a wide range of activities such as Quad Olympics, in which many games are played on the sacred square plot of grass that is the center of ESF's campus. At night, they have many options from attending "late night at the gym" to watching a movie on a large outdoor projection screen next door at Syracuse University. The new students also must create their schedules, purchase books, take tours of the buildings and meet some of their key professors.
Samuel Lowen, a senior bioprocess engineering major and third-year OL, described the best part of orientation as "being able to watch the students in your group make friendships that progress throughout the week from all the effort put forth by the OLs and the university."
By looking at the dynamics of the group, it's clear the OLs are close friends who love working together. Many OLs even choose to spend extra time with their co-workers after their long days of work.
Some OLs will choose to become student mentors to the freshman class for the fall semester which further helps the new students acclimate as well as have fun and meet new people during meetings and group outings. Even without being mentors, many OLs maintain a close relationship with each other and their small-group students throughout the academic year.
Many OLs share the same joy in watching the freshmen go from uncomfortable and unsure during the group activities to talkative and excited about school.
Participating in Orientation has become a beloved tradition, essential to the culture at ESF. The OLs work hard and are rewarded with an opportunity to welcome and coach the freshman through the new chapter in their lives. When asked about the most surprising experience Orientation week has offered her, Kathryn Casey, a senior environmental studies major answered, "How much the freshman look up to [OLs] and actually want you to help them adjust to all aspects of college life and really appreciate the fact that we are here for them."
--By Brianna Reed, ES '13
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