Student orientation coordinator stands as a beacon of positivity for new students and families

Student orientation coordinator stands as a beacon of positivity for new students and families

Maryalice Ball, a fourth-year chemical engineering major from Buffalo, N.Y., has been part of RIT’s Orientation team for nearly three years. She works as student orientation coordinator alongside four other students — Chris Zogg, Natalie Robinson, Sebastian Echeverria, and Ava Gervan. Ball talks about how the team has been working hard to make the student orientation process run smoothly and effectively.

What does your job as Student Orientation Coordinator entail?

I am one of five students who are part of the Student Orientation Coordinating team. We are further divided into the development and programming teams. I predominantly work on the development side to get our staff of orientation supervisors and leaders together. I also help plan and execute training for the staff. If the programming team needs any assistance, I am there for them, and vice-versa. When it comes to orientation, everyone helps out in any way they can. We try to keep each other as much in the loop as possible. There is a whole lot of support among the five of us and each of us plays to our own strengths, understands the value of ownership, and rallies around each other with one common goal: to get the job done.

There are 20 orientation supervisors who are mentored by student orientation coordinators. I mentor eight of them. These supervisors work closely with 167 orientation leaders who each interact with around 20 to 25 incoming students directly.

When do you start the planning for orientation?

We start planning for orientation during the month of October where we begin the hiring process for student orientation coordinators (my position), then OLTs (orientation supervisors and orientation program assistants), and finally, the Orientation Leaders. Normally, there is a lot of planning that goes into the fall orientation as opposed to the spring because there aren’t as many students coming in during the spring.

What does it feel like to be one of the first faces that new students see when they arrive on campus?

Although orientation leaders are the ones who most come in contact with incoming students, everyone on the orientation team is approachable. I started off as an orientation leader two years ago, transitioned into the supervisor role last year and, currently, I am a student orientation coordinator. It is extremely exciting, but we can never forget the huge responsibility that goes with setting the stage for what is expected out of RIT. Communicating RIT’s message of inclusion and diversity, among others, is definitely something that we keep at the forefront of our minds.

Why is this job so important to set the tone for a good move-in experience?

There is a lot to unpack during the move-in phase because there are so many emotions that go into it. Most of the time, the whole family comes along. There is a lot of training the orientation teams go through to be prepared to stand as a beacon of positivity, strength, and to help provide a calming presence during what might be a stressful situation. If we aren’t calm and collected, this can be easily transferred onto our incoming students and their families regardless of the amount of planning that has gone into it.

After such a crazy year last year, what are you most looking forward to?

Something I am really looking forward to this year is being a little more in person, and to try and go back to what orientation was like pre-COVID. Some of the orientation leaders were virtual last year because of the pandemic and I think the orientation energy is something very magical and tangible when it is in person. There is just something about being in a room with all of our incoming students and the orientation staff. The excitement is tangible and something we emphasize is that RIT is a home away from home. Last year forced us to make a lot of changes we wouldn’t have had to make otherwise and there are so many takeaways we would like to continue from that experience. For instance, we usually do move-ins in a single day but, because of COVID, we spread it across multiple days. It just made sense. We are doing it a little differently this year, but we definitely wanted to keep a similar mindset.

What are some of the things planned this year for the in-person orientation experience?

We are bringing back some of the activities we were not able to do last year while adding more. Usually, we would have social events during the evenings. Our programming team—Ava Gervan and Sebastian Echeverria—have done a lot to organize and plan events and are doing phenomenal work. Because of that, we  have more social activities planned throughout the day like RIT Lingo Bingo; “How to Budget” sessions; movie nights; ice skating events; Goodbye, Goodbuy; and so much more. We are also trying to get families more involved this time around. For instance, during the first meeting with the orientation leader, we are encouraging parents to be there along with their students. 

What do you love about your job?

The people. I love that RIT is a place where everyone is encouraged to be their own person, and overall, there is no judgment. The people I work with in orientation are so passionate about RIT and are keen on setting that tone right away with our incoming students. Our goal is that after every orientation, each student leaves with at least one connection going into the start of classes so that they feel and know that they matter to the RIT community.

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