Gators now able to register for orientation leader positions

Applications for 2023-24 orientation leaders for first-year orientation week are now open to students until March 4, 2023. Orientation leaders guide first-years through the newly-developed Week of Welcome, which lasts approximately one week before the start of fall classes.

The Week of Welcome was implemented for the first time during the 2022-23 academic year and is headed by First-Year Class Dean Niki Fjeldal. Orientation leaders are one of the first-years’ main points of contact during their first week at Allegheny and are an extremely valuable resource for them, according to Fjeldal.

“There’s no better way to understand how campus works than to have a peer help introduce (first-years) to campus,” Fjeldal said.

Fjeldal said the orientation leaders are trained on how to facilitate group activities, communicate clearly and effectively, and hold inclusive conversations. In addition, they develop their leadership skills, are taught essential knowledge about the campus and are educated on the responsibilities that come with their job, like being mandated reporters under Title IX. Fjeldal said she hired 25 orientation leaders in 2021 and plans to hire the same number next year, with the goal of having a healthy mixture of sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“What we did a really good job of last year is we had a good segment of students on campus that really represented our general student population, and that’s really important,” Fjeldal said. “Having a diversified group of folks is really important.”

She said that having a diverse group of orientation leaders means there is a greater opportunity to provide personalized experiences for incoming students.

Ethan Borsh, ’25, served as an orientation leader at the beginning of the semester. He said he was motivated to become an orientation leader because he wanted to help others.

“My little brother, my little sister and I have always lived in the same house, so when I came here I didn’t really have to do any of the stuff I had to do for them anymore,” Borsh said. “I had a lot of that energy to want to help people, and when I heard that there was a job that was literally helping people move into a whole new world, I think signing up was a no-brainer.”

Mattie Blair, ’26, said orientation leaders gave her valuable advice during the Week of Welcome.

“They were able to give us first-hand experience about what college life is about,” Blair said.

Blair did not stay in close contact with her orientation leader but said she chats with him when they see each other around campus. Milo Watson, ’26, had a similar experience to Blair.

“I know people who have become pretty good friends with their orientation leader, which I think is overwhelmingly positive,” Watson said. “It’s good to have mentors on campus.”

Despite his positive experiences with his orientation leader, Watson said he will not be applying to become one.

“Being an orientation leader seems really hard because, you know, having been passed a flyer myself to be an orientation leader next fall, it’s just students,” Watson said. “I give orientation leaders a lot of credit for taking that on because it’s taking up the last dredges of their summer.”

Fjeldal said that next year’s Week of Welcome will be adapted based on feedback from this year’s first-years and orientation leaders. One of the specific activities that will be adapted is the ‘Speak About It’ event, an event focused on discussing consent, boundaries and healthy relationships, according to their website. Due to the group of trained educators from the Speak About It organization having some last-minute health problems, first-years watched a video of the performance that was originally supposed to be in-person. Orientation Leader Makell Logan, ’25, said the debrief discussion that followed the video was challenging for him. Logan recalled that one of the many topics he was supposed to discuss with his group of first-years was what they thought their sex life would be like on campus.

“I did not feel comfortable asking my fellow students some of those questions, just because it’s not my business, and it felt like I was being invasive of their own lives,” Logan said. “I still have class with some of them — it’s just a certain level of privacy I think they deserve as peers. The discussion afterward should have been led by a supervisor, (not) by the orientation leaders.”

Logan said he discussed his discomfort in depth with Fjeldal following the event. Borsh also felt uncomfortable facilitating the debrief discussion.

“My group got split from the other group,” Borsh said. “Having to (manage the conversation) alone was pretty bad, but in the future, I don’t expect things like that to happen.”

In the future, Logan hopes that orientation leaders will be able to help create the Week of Welcome schedule.

“Our schedule felt so jam-packed, and even I felt bad for the freshmen,” Logan said. “It was good that we did so many things to help them out, but it was a lot. I think more student engagement throughout the process of making orientation week would have been good because (orientation leaders) are all students. We know how it feels to come in (to Allegheny).”

At the end of the Week of Welcome, both first-years and orientation leaders were given a survey in which they could submit their feedback about the program. Fjeldal said she will take all of the feedback into account to improve future Weeks of Welcome.

Despite some of their concerns about the structure of the Week of Welcome, both Borsh and Logan enjoyed their time as orientation leaders and think that the positive parts of the program far outweighed the bad. Both are planning to apply for the position again. Logan said being an orientation leader is a good position for students who want to be involved with influencing culture on campus, who enjoy helping others and who want to improve their leadership skills through practice. Fjeldal said she is available for any students who want to talk more about the position.

“Anyone that is interested and wants to work with students and help welcome them to Allegheny and help smooth that experience (should apply),” Fjeldal said. “We provide enough training that anyone can do that process.”

Applications are due on March 4, 2023. In addition to the written application, there will be a group interview during the week following Spring Break. Fjeldal said there is no incentive to apply sooner rather than later.

“Being that first point of contact for someone — it’s a little stressful, I will admit, but it’s beautiful that they will remember you forever and it’s so fulfilling if you get the opportunity to present Allegheny in a good way,” Borsh said. “It feels really nice to be that for people. There’s a group of my students that scream my name every time they see me walking down the street, and that always makes my day.”