Student orientation leaders help incoming class make connections

August 24, 2023

Finding your way around a college campus is not always about a map, especially if you are a new student.

No matter how good your map skills are, navigating class schedules, campus happenings and social events is more about learning from others who have traveled the same path.

First-year students also have to adjust from the structure of high school to living on your own and managing a daily schedule.

The compass for new students to Albion College is Albion-O, the annual orientation event.

“The goal of orientation is to help new students create connections and new relationships,” said Kelly Finn, assistant dean for student development. “We want them to be connected to each other and the campus, and we want them to be successful. It’s all about relationship building and resources.”

The Albion-O program is filled with information and fun. There are sessions about building meaningful relationships, embracing the “first-year experience,” belonging, managing time and changing class schedules. Other events include a glow party, an excursion to the beach and the very popular visit to Target.

Central to the success of orientation are 21 current Albion College students who serve as leaders during orientation.

“We have a lot of leaders who are returning students, so that helps,” Finn said. “They have to have a positive energy and demonstrate leadership on campus because we rely on them to do a lot. The pace of the week is a lot to keep up with. They have to be flexible and adapt.

“We want them to make this the best experience possible for the new students and their relationship-building role is very important.”

Finn said student leaders get two days of training, which includes customer service training. The student leaders are responsible for setting up, managing and tearing down events. They serve as guides, information providers and listening ears.

“I get to be someone’s ‘peace’ in a time that can be a little crazy,” said Shae Robinson, a senior and a first-year student leader. “Things happen, and I can help and be a resource for them.”

Junior Hannah Fife, a returning student leader, said, “Orientation helps because you get to know people and get connected with resources.”

For junior Max Honiss, it’s about helping new students feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

“We are here to help new students feel secure,” Honiss said. “We answer their questions, and they can use us to help make a smooth transition from home to college.”

Orientation offers a lot of fun events, but there’s no question about the favorite among new students.

“Our Target event on Thursday is really one of the events the students love,” Finn said. “The store is decorated with our colors, and they have fun.”

Fife agreed.

“The students look forward to going to Target. I think that is where the light turns on for some of them, and they realize they can buy their own stuff,” Fife said. “Some of them buy stuff they need while others buy Legos.”

Honiss said his first-year purchase was about having fun.

“My friends and I bought Razor scooters,” he said with a smile. “They are learning boundaries. They think they need permission to do things and don’t realize they have autonomy.”

Fife said the connections made during orientation last well beyond the event.

“The connections we make continue throughout our time at Albion,” she said. “They still come up to you or give that shy little wave because they know you. Orientation is an opportunity to create relationships with other students. Being able to see both sides of orientation is very helpful. You know how they feel about some things, and you can help them.”