From left, Samantha Fynn, '20; Eric Rizzi, '20; Silvia Rosado, '19, '20G; Reilly Callahan, '20G; Amanda Ferrante, '20; John Carroll, '20; and Danny Weaver, '19, '20G, lead the orientation leaders in fall 2019. They help train about 100 orientation leaders. (Courtesy of John Kish)

Orientation leaders start early training for the fall

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Orientation leaders are already preparing for next fall’s incoming Mountain Hawks. 

The Office of First-Year Experience (OFYE) staff retreat on Feb. 21-22 marked the beginning of training for roughly 100 student-staff members.

The fall 2019 orientation staff, separated into color families. The color families are a helpful way to split up the first-years, but also a way to promote bonding between the orientation leaders themselves. (Courtesy of John Kish)

After the retreat, orientation leaders participate in nine training sessions throughout the spring term and one summer session right before school starts.

Alongside the professional staff, returning orientation leaders and orientation coordinators help to train new members for the position. 

Training for orientation leaders touches on topics like facilitating, presenting and giving directions to first-year students. Orientation leaders are also introduced to many resources that first-year students should know about.

“Some of it can be a little repetitive,” said Nicole Burke, the assistant director of OFYE. “We do that intentionally because if they hear it and practice it over the course of nine weeks, it is more likely that it will stick come August.

Spring training doesn’t just consist of lectures. For both new and returning orientation leaders, it is a time for them to get closer with each other.

“My favorite activities we do during spring training are the self-disclosure activities,” said Zoe Wolfenson, ’22, a returning orientation leader. “We say so much about our lives and try to bring that into being an orientation leader.”

OFYE also splits up all the orientation leaders into groups with varying colors like red, yellow and purple, known as color families. 

One reason behind the color families is for OFYE to organize all the orientation leaders and their personal groups of first-years. Also, it is seen as another way to help the orientation leaders bond during training, Burke said.

“It really gives that smaller group a chance to connect with each other, connect with the orientation coordinator and have that small group training that is much more effective than a whole bunch of orientation leaders in one space,” Burke said. 

The blue color family, welcoming the first-years to Lehigh. The check-in to orientation is on Mountaintop Campus. (Courtesy of John Kish)

After the nine weeks of spring training ends, orientation leaders get a break over the summer. In August, they return to campus early for five days of training from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Noah Gibson, ‘22, a returning orientation leader, said he enjoys coming back to Lehigh earlier. 

“Everyone is coming back from summer, and everyone has been doing cool things all summer,” Gibson said. “There’s stories to be heard.” 

The summer training session requires orientation leaders to review and build on their training from the spring. However, there are also times set aside for leisurely activities..

 One event that happens during summer training is a volleyball game between returning orientation leaders and orientation coordinators. 

“It is one of the most looked forward to things of the year,” Gibson said. 

Once training is over and the new students arrive, all the lessons the orientation leaders learned are put to the test. 

For some orientation leaders, however, the transition from training to dealing with new students is not an issue at all. 

“I would say it is not a stressful environment at all, I think it is more fun in a way,” Gibson said. “You are getting so close with everyone you are working with, and then you are ready by the time you have your first-years.” 

Gibson said even though the training process spans a finite amount of time, the bonds orientation leaders make with each other will last way beyond the first few months of the school year.   

“Once you are an orientation leader, that doesn’t ever end,” Gibson said. “You will always be part of that staff and know way more about the school than you would ever imagine. It is just a great feeling knowing that.”

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