New Student Orientation welcomes thousands of first-year and transfer students to NC State each summer. New Student Programs’ orientation student staff members make this possible with a helping hand, warm smile and endless campus knowledge.
Orientation Leaders serve new students and family members attending orientation programs, while Student Coordinators have previously served as Orientation Leaders and assist in orientation program development and implementation. We spoke with student coordinator Eli Whitley, a rising junior in communication, about his involvement in orientation and how he makes new students feel at home.
What led you to NC State and what’s your favorite part of being a student?
I was born in the Bronx, New York, and lived there until I was 8. NC State was the first place I had a connection with. I started doing veterinary camp and leadership camp here, and then it hit me that NC State was my dream school. I was so happy that I got in. One of my favorite parts of being a student is that NC State strives for diversity and togetherness. I always see a familiar face on campus. Once you get involved in organizations and make friends, you feel like you’re a part of the community. I love the community that I’ve built while I’ve been here.
What led you to want to become an orientation leader, and what does a typical orientation day look like for you?
I decided during my own orientation, during CHASS Days, that I wanted to be an orientation leader. I was at the Impact Leadership Village in Bowen Hall and one of the directors, Quentin Hodges, spoke to our group and after that conversation I applied. It was a fun process because I did it with friends from the village. When we all got accepted, that was the start of one of my best experiences in college so far.
On a typical orientation day, we wake up at about 7 a.m., have a morning meeting, then check in all the students and families and give them name tags and meal tickets. We then head into Talley Student Union for the welcome, which is an opportunity for us to speak about NC State. Then all the orientation leaders introduce themselves. After that there’s small group activities, where we lay out the day for the new students.
Throughout the day we have many programs to teach about different departments and opportunities, and there are breakout sessions talking about various programs, like the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement. Then there’s an academic breakout session, and students get to meet with advisors and get to understand what classes are required for their major. After that we do lunch or dinner, and then the nighttime activities are more about serious topics, like interpersonal violence and harassment, then we do a presentation called Pack Pride where we introduce university policies. Then day one ends with students coming together to play games and connect with people outside of their small groups.
Day two, again we get up at 7 a.m. and do morning programs and let students register for their courses. Then we have an event called Final Countdown that tells them all the different events they can look forward to when they get here, like Packapalooza and Wolfpack Welcome Week. On that day we have small group wrap-ups with the orientation leaders to say goodbye.
Beyond these different steps, how do orientation leaders help students feel at home?
When orientation leaders are hired, for the spring semester and summer, we’re trained on everything from all the departments to the history of NC State. Our job is to help students have a smooth transition. We’re supposed to be their first contact and relate at a student level — their first interaction with a college student. Our job is to provide a student perspective, answer questions and relate on a peer level, and direct them to help if they need it.
What’s something people may not know about you personally or about the orientation program?
With New Student Programs, we’re called “NSP fam” and there’s a great family aspect. When I came in I was afraid to make new friends and connections, but through my orientation leader experience and now as a student coordinator, all the orientation leaders I’ve worked with are my family. I didn’t think I was going to get a whole family out of this job, but the connections I’ve made show we really care about each other here at NC State.
What other organizations or activities are you involved with on campus?
I’m a student coordinator now, which is a step above orientation leader. You have the opportunity to come back with more behind the scenes knowledge and help out. I’m also an intern with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and I’m part of a community service organization called College Mentors for Kids, and I’m the co-president currently of the acapella group, Acappology. Next year I will be a resident mentor for the State Village at Wolf Village — a community leader, not as much an RA, but more of a mentor.