The process and people behind the scenes
By Annabelle Blair | Echo
Returning students arrived at Taylor a week before the first day of class to plan and pray for incoming students.
For the next seven weeks, a total of seventy-two Orientation Group (O-Group) leaders and cabinet members will lead their freshmen in bonding activities, sit in on the first year experience class and showcase Taylor’s community-minded mission.
In addition, O-Group leaders and cabinet members attend a one-hour class, which offers support in the organization and navigation of interpersonal situations. Cabinet members are employed as TAs for first year experience, but O-Group leaders remain volunteers.
Cabinet member and junior Marguerite Riggenbach said it made her day to see one of her former students from an O-Group she led during summer orientation walking around Taylor at the beginning of fall semester. At that moment, she realized he’d made the decision to come to Taylor, and she saw the impact of the orientation program on his life. “Orientation leaders encompass the heart of the coming of each new school year,” said Riggenbach. “They walk with freshmen through their first seven weeks of college and leave a lasting impact.”
Sophomore Taylor Daily anticipates not only making deep connections with the Green O-Group she co-leads but also joining their learning experience. “I chose to be an O-Group leader because when I was a freshman I came to Taylor not knowing anyone, and my O-Group helped me feel like I belonged at Taylor, too,” she said.
As a student athlete, sophomore Brandon George regrets not being able to invest more time in his O-Group last year. “The most meaningful thing about O-Group was how it introduced me to people I might not have met on campus—and, of course, a mentor to ask direction from.”
According to Shawnda Freer, director of first year experience and associate professor of student development, O-Groups are not chosen based on students’ personalities or presumed abilities to connect with each other but on class schedules. If a freshman’s class schedule changes due to adding or dropping classes, their O-Group may change as well.
The most substantial difference between O-Groups this year and last year is the extension of Community Plunge from a freshman event to an event engaging the entire student body. “The goals are to restore our vision of making Community Plunge an all-campus service day and to avoid conflict with schedules,” Freer said.
Freer and her team changed Community Plunge to Monday, before classes start, instead of Thursday in hopes that the entire campus will be active in serving the surrounding communities.
According to Freer, there will be sign-up sheets to volunteer at Community Plunge in the DC. “I hope the upperclassmen see this too and join us.”