Orientation Changes Leadership Structure

This year’s freshman orientation program combined the past roles of Orientation Leaders (OLs) and Pre-Major Advising Connection (PACE) leaders in an attempt to better acclimate freshmen to life at Emory.

Before this fall, freshmen received advising from two different sets of peer mentors: OLs, who led orientation activities such as “icebreakers” and tours of campus facilities, and PACE leaders, who assisted freshmen with academic advising and course sign-up. However, administrators chose to merge the responsibilities of OLs and PACE leaders, therefore consolidating all the responsibilities into a single OL position.

Tanya Willard, director of the orientation program, wrote in an email to the Wheel that having only one group of students in charge of orientation allowed freshmen more clarity during their introduction to campus life.

“Our decision to make these changes was driven by our desire to create a more seamless experience for new students,” Willard wrote. “In the former model … it was confusing for them to know the difference.”

OLs also underwent a new system of training this year. Emily Sankey, the assistant director of orientation and family programs, wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel that training for OLs began in the fall with a team-building retreat. Traditionally, training occurred the spring before the next academic year started.

In addition, the change in date allowed OLs to spend more time working together and getting to know one another, she wrote.

“This training had enabled the Orientation Leaders to become a cohesive unit before the Orientation program began,” Sankey wrote.

Both Willard and Sankey noted that they felt the program was successful. Willard stated that program administrators have received positive feedback from faculty, students and parents.

Faculty have also informed Willard and Sankey that they felt OLs were more prepared to deal with academic questions than PACE leaders had been in the past.

This year’s Orientation Captains were in charge of training OLs and helped lead orientation activities and events.

College junior Meredith Green, who is one of many Orientation Capatins, said she felt that this year’s program ran exceedingly smoothly.

She said that the success came from the staff she oversaw. She said they seemed more driven now that the programs have been combined.

“Combining the PACE and OL [programs] was a fantastic idea because it strengthened the Orientation staff as a whole,” Green said. “It allowed the OLs to build deeper and more holistic mentoring relationships with students.”

College freshman Alison Wagman said she feels the new program was beneficial and that she could approach the OLs with questions she had about the University.

Wagman remarked that Orientation helped her figure out where buildings and activities were located on campus.

Despite the changes in this year’s Orientation model, College freshman Jessica Corbin said that the program could still improve – especially in terms of the activities it offered new students.

“Orientation was very helpful in making the transition from a senior in high school to a freshman in college,” Corbin said. “It was a great way to get adjusted to a new place, but I think they could have had more interesting activities that kids felt more motivated to attend. A lot of kids didn’t show up or didn’t want to go to the events.”

According to Green, Orientation this year focused on celebrating being a part of the Emory community. She added that next year’s Orientation will be about making the new orientation program even stronger.

Willard and Sankey said they both hope that freshmen received a positive introduction to Emory, and that they hope freshmen have come to view Emory as their home.

“I am incredibly proud of the 130+ students that worked tirelessly to make sure that each new student had a positive first impression of Emory,” Sankey wrote. “Our Orientation Captains and Leaders are the reason why our program was so successful this year. I am extremely grateful for their hard work and dedication to helping new students find a sense of belonging here at Emory.”

— By Wendy Becker