As freshmen and transfer students descend onto campus, they are welcomed by the smiling faces of the yellow-shirted Orientation Aides — more commonly referred to as OAs.
p. The next five days of orientation help students ease into college life and become familiar with the College.
p. To prepare for orientation, the OAs underwent three days of training before the incoming students arrived. “Training …has included a large number of different activities including planning and rehearsing skits, planning mixers [and] getting information” that the OAs themselves will need to convey to the new students, senior and Orientation Aide Director Ashley Slaff said. Orientation is lead by the Dean of Students Office, but takes place with the help of around 180 volunteers.
p. The extensive OA staff includes several positions: Freshman OAs, who serve as the leaders for the freshman halls during orientation; Transfer OAs, who lead transfer students though orientation; and Program and Family OAs (more commonly known as PFOAs), who put on skits for the new students, give tours of places such as the library and put on informative presentations.
p. The orientation staff is led by 10 Orientation Aide Directors who have been planning since December. According to Slaff, OADs “work during orientation to make sure things are running smoothly and deal with any large problems.” These aides have more experience and are able to pass on their knowledge to the new OAs.
p. “To be an OAD you just have to apply and have already been an OA … it is a way to keep improving orientation,” senior Claire Guendel said. “We limit the returning OAs to 75 … so others have the opportunity.”
p. Many times, students have extremely positive experiences with their OAs and want to provide that for future classes at the College. “I had heard that it was an amazing experience and a lot of fun working with older William and Mary students, and then getting to greet the incoming freshmen,” sophomore Ali Snell said. “I am really passionate about everything WM. [It] seemed like another great opportunity to be insanely spirited and excited.”
p. To get the orientation staff acquainted with each other, OAs and OADs participated in bonding activities during training as a way to bring everyone together. The PFOA staff made sashes to wear during orientation, while other staffs participated in a flag football game with the RAs. “Bonding … is especially important for the PFOA staff since we spend a lot of time together during orientation,” Slaff said.
p. A cohesive staff facilitates orientation, helping freshmen to transition better to college life. However, OA training is not all fun and games. The serious subjects that OAs relay to their “OA Babies” is presented and reviewed with them in the same sort of manner that the OAs will present the new students.
p. Sexual Assault Educator Trisha Hunsatser and Health Education Specialist Sarah Irwin from the Dean of Students office held a presentation on sexual assault and other issues during OA training. To help prepare OAs, the presentations included simulations of what the new students will experience.
p. “Right now [training] is a lot of sitting and listening to various people from around the College talking to us about things like Tribe Pride, athletics, sex and alcohol [and] academics,” Snell said. These subjects help ensure the OAs are well-informed and allow the aides to help the new students become comfortable at the College.
p. This training and preparation guarantees that the OAs can welcome the students into the College community and make the transition as easy as possible.
p. “[We want to be] able to offer all sorts of avenues for success to the incoming students,” Snell said. “Right now we are getting kind of stir crazy and just want all the meetings and whatnot to be over with and have everyone arrive and make sure we start off this year right.”