During the welcoming session, when senior and orientation coordinator Kristen Holder asked everyone to welcome their 2017 Orientation Leaders, more than 100 incoming freshmen and guests were met with 14 students chanting “it’s great to be a Reinhardt Eagle.”
Looking behind the scenes reveals how New Student Orientation (NSO) is a series of events that brings all areas of campus together to make an engaging day for incoming students and their families to be ready for their upcoming year at Reinhardt. As Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Activities, Dr. Walter May’s goal is for these students to feel “a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership of their experience and a sense of connectedness to their peers and to the institution.” May says this takes every area of campus to achieve.
“Orientation is probably one of the most complex things we do, it has a lot of moving parts,” May said. “[It takes] involvement across the board from faculty to staff to administration, to every department on campus [having] a role in it.”
Orientation Leaders worked with May and Holder June 5-10 preparing for an experience that May wanted to be engaging, interactive, and where students and parents would connect with new peers, faculty and staff, and resources available on campus.
Junior and Music Education major Nikki Johnson, a first-time Orientation Leader, joined because she loves talking to people and making them feel welcome. After her first year in the music program, she grew to love Reinhardt and wants everyone to love it too.
“My favorite part about being an Orientation Leader is the bond I make with my fellow students at Reinhardt and the incoming students,” Johnson said. “Working with the fellow orientation leaders has been a blast. We are driven enough to get everything done efficiently, but we still make sure it’s enjoyable.”
Holder said it is important for parents to leave with the knowledge they need and for students to leave orientation feeling confident for when they come back in the fall.
“The biggest thing is [students] being competent in the campus, the resources they have, where to go if they ever need anything. Have confidence in the people they meet, that way they can have friends…but have confidence in everything and anything they do,” Holder said.
Holder believes that in order to instill that confidence, it is essential for Orientation Leaders to be welcoming, competent and have a willingness to multitask, adapt and work.
“Everyone on the team has something phenomenal about them, but it’s not all the same thing, and that’s what makes it really cool in my eyes,” she said.
When selecting students to lead orientation, May was looking for students to be the “sales force” for the university.
“Some people think it has to be an extrovert — it doesn’t. I’m looking for someone who has that Reinhardt experience who can sell it: the mission and purpose of the university, to educate the whole person, to have an experience that is engaged, that has made them thrive here. Someone who can, extrovert or introvert, connect well with others students and share their experience, but also their passion for the university.”
Johnson believes Orientation Leaders offer a unique perspective of Reinhardt. “They have been in these students’ shoes and understand their feelings and know exactly how to help. It also allows freshmen to see some familiar faces in August.”
Holder said that the Orientation Leader team exhibited servant leadership. If something needed to get done, she said that they did not wait for her to ask them to do it.
“The orientation leaders have energy from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.,” said Holder. “They have same amount of energy [all day], and I love it,” said Holder.
Orientation Leaders return to campus in July for the Transfer Student SOAR session on Wednesday, July 12. The next SOAR sessions for incoming freshmen will be held Friday, July 14 and Saturday, July 15. An additional session will be held for Dual Enrollment/Move On When Ready students on Friday, July 21. The second step of NSO, Eagle Bound, takes place Aug. 19-20 for new commuter and residential students.
To learn more about this year’s Orientation Leaders, visit reinhardt.edu/accepted-student/orientation/orientation-leaders.html.