A group of Orientation Leaders pose for a photo at the OL Banquet on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. The banquet was held to celebrate the completion of orientation for the incoming freshman. (Courtesy of Rachel Davidson)

Rewarding experience draws many Orientation Leaders back to program year after year


Only 25 percent of students who apply to become orientation leaders are accepted, reflecting the importance, impact and influence of the program on first-year students.

Orientation represents a time for first-year students to become acclimated to Lehigh’s campus and culture, and orientation leaders play a direct role in shaping the experience.

“We look to build a staff that is representative of Lehigh’s population, which includes all types of personalities, experiences, college involvement, majors, class years and more,” said Kara Gensamer, the assistant director of First Year Experience and Orientation. Gensamer said most students who are accepted to be orientation leaders are newcomers to the program.

According to Gensamer, training for all orientation leaders includes hour-and-a-half meetings for 10 weeks in the spring and five days of training the week before orientation begins.

Trishna Dave, ’16, a returning leader, said returning orientation leaders begin training in the fall because of their part in the selection process for the new group of applicants.

After serving on orientation staff for either one or two years, students can apply to become orientation coordinatosr, Gensamer said. The coordinator application process is already underway, and the chosen individuals will help interview applicants and train the newly chosen leaders for the next year.

While the orientation leaders’ main job is to assist first-year students in getting adjusted to college life, many said being on staff has positively affected their own lives and experiences at Lehigh.

Dave was a returning orientation leader this year, and said the way the program affected her personally was one of the reasons that she wanted to return.

“(Orientation) was a program where I can give back to Lehigh and do a lot for first-years, but I also changed and gained a lot from it,” she said. “I really wanted to be able to grow again and go through that experience again.”

Andrew Shapiro, ’16, was new to the orientation staff this year and said the experience changed him as a person. Before his experience as an orientation leader, he considered himself to be very introverted, but now said the program helped him become more open-minded.

“At this point (as a senior), I know where I stand with everything, and it was cool to break that down,” Shapiro said. “I was definitely a very closed-minded person before all of it. It brings you out of your shell.”

After serving as an orientation leader for two years, Spencer Freund, ’16, was selected to be a coordinator this year. He was an coordinator for student staff, meaning that his focus was on staff bonding and unity. There is also another section of orientation coordinators that focus more on behind-the-scenes logistics such as event planning and scheduling.

“The reason I applied to be an (orientation coordinator) was because I gained a lot from the (orientation leader) program for the first two years and I really wanted to give back to it,” Freund said. “That was my way of thinking about how I could help give other people a similar great experience.”

Shapiro described the training process as “throwing a ton of information at us about everything first-years” and also forging strong relationships among the staff. He encourages potential applicants to “do it, even if you’re doubting it” and said orientation leaders should enter the program with an open mind.

This year’s orientation leaders will have an opportunity to apply to return later this fall, and interviews for new orientation coordinators are in progress. Students looking to join the orientation staff for the first time will be able to start the application process this February.

“Be open because (orientation) is going to be something that you’re not going to expect what it actually is,” Dave said. “It’s something you will really learn from and grow from. It’s also a really rewarding position, so embrace it.”

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