Photo by Danny Meyer
An orchestra of emotional voices—tense, excited, confused and confident—rumbles through the Houston Harte University Center several Fridays and Saturdays each summer as Angelo State University welcomes incoming students to New Student Orientation.
Weaving through the crowds of students, their parents and, in some cases, whole families, are the orientation leaders, a cadre of more than 20 ASU students united by their enthusiasm for ASU.
Senior orientation leader Courtney Williams, a nursing major from Abilene, knows firsthand how important the orientation session can be.
“My sister and I were both first-generation high school graduates and we’ll both be first-generation college graduates,” said the Abilene native. “That’s why it is so important to me to have an impact on new students choosing to come to college. Even if they’re not first generation, it’s still something new, a new place. I want to be that reassuring face.”
Orientation leaders are selected from among proven ASU student leaders by Heather Valle Brown, assistant director of student life, then they go through three months of training.
“Orientation leaders assist incoming Angelo State University students with their academic, social and cultural transition to the campus community,” Brown said. “Orientation leaders are some of the first upper-class role models that incoming first-year and transfer students connect with.”
And that connection continues after orientation. Whether at an event such as Rambunctious Weekend or just going about their business on campus, the orientation leaders are available to answer questions, to offer a welcoming hand and to fill the role of experienced and successful older sister or brother in the new and sometimes intimidating campus environment.
“As a senior orientation leader, I’m striving to make people’s days better, to make them more excited to be here,” said Collin Sandefur of Austin. “I bring energy to making everyone’s day a little bit better.”
An interdisciplinary studies major who plans to pursue a career teaching high school physics, Sandefur strongly advises incoming students to get involved on campus.
“It took a little while until I found this group of guys and started opening up and doing stuff like orientation on campus,” he said. “If you don’t find friends immediately, keep looking, keep trying.”
As a senior orientation leader, I’m striving to make people’s days better, to make them more excited to be here.
Sandefur and his new friends also founded a local chapter of the Kappa Delta Rho national fraternity. They were interested in this group because it has a mandate to work with children through KDR Kids and such organizations as the B+ Foundation for children with leukemia and the Children’s Miracle Network.
“I wanted to be part of creating something new, something with a higher standard of service,” Sandefur said. “I was president for a year and a half, and I wouldn’t have had those opportunities at a larger school. I found a home here.”
History major Geoffrey Johnston of San Angelo, a senior orientation leader in charge of encouraging ASU spirit and traditions, echoes Sandefur’s sentiments.
“What changed things for me was getting involved,” he said. “I joined ASU’s Beta Alpha Zeta chapter of the Lambda Chi Alpha national fraternity, which led me to joining the orientation staff and the Homecoming Committee.”
“There are lots of students and everyone has their own story,” he added. “I came in knowing nothing, and I like to tell the new students what I would have liked to have known. For one, get involved. It gives you a reason to be on campus and not just for academics. Also, I make sure to tell incoming students about the tutoring centers and programs like Outdoor Adventures.”
Williams also credits being involved for her success at ASU. It started when she met Brown during her own orientation.
“She recruited me to be president of ASU BIGS, a student group affiliated with Big Brothers Big Sisters,” Williams said. “I then applied to be an orientation leader after my freshman year.”
“I really love course registration, helping students work out the perfect schedule,” she added. “I love meeting the new students. I want to show them you don’t have to be a reflection of who you’ve been or who your parents are. At Angelo State, you can become whoever you want to be.”