Friday, June 14, 2013

UNO NSO Continues with O-Fest and Nighttime Fun

orientation festEmilyUNO and her Panhellenic friends recently gave up their "letters" during O-Fest at New Student Orientation. As their green T-shirts say, they gave up their "letters" to help incoming students find theirs. Greek Life at UNO is unlike any other.

New Student Orientation spiraled into nighttime fun at the University of New Orleans on Wednesday at "O-Fest," which transformed the courtyard of a freshmen residence hall into a student organization resource center and a party.

Orientation Fest, sponsored by the UNO Student Government, is designed to introduce new students to the more than 120 student organizations on campus, a point of pride at the University. The event, which ran from 5:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. in the courtyard of Pontchartrain Hall brought welcome tables from nearly 50 organizations and the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership.

Students toured the information tables and spoke with leaders at their leisure as they capped off a day that introduced them to UNO with a campus tour, introduction to student support services, faculty panel and breakout sessions on issues ranging from campus dining, career counseling, the honors program and class registration to campus housing, financial aid, campus recreation, Greek Life and student involvement and leadership. Helping to ease the transition to other evening fun, O-Fest included music, food, dancing and that New Orleans favorite: snowballs.

"It's an opportunity for all the student organizations on campus to showcase what they are and what they are all about," said Nicole Ralston, student success counselor in First Year Experience, of the annual NSO event.

Taija Williams, 18, of Phoenix, La. toured the tables with plans to join several organizations in fall. Her high school had fewer offerings and she wasn't always as involved as she'd like to be, she said.

"I'm going to make a change," said the fall freshman, who plans to study earth and environmental sciences with plans of working eventually in coastal restoration projects.

Her community in Plaquemines Parish was heavily impacted by Hurricane Katrina and faces the brunt of coastal erosion issues, she said. Community activities that included water testing, tree plantings and trips to study Louisiana wetlands helped her to find her passion and make that decision, she said. Now she was looking for a complement.

"I was so scared at first, totally scared," she said of arriving on campus that morning for Orientation. "Once I got here, it was better. Everyone was so friendly and inviting."

She feels more at ease about coming to the University in the fall, she said. The day's sessions were informative and the nighttime fun had just begun.

With Taijia stood a new friend, Jessica Harris, 18, of Baton Rouge.

"Like her, I was scared because I'm not used to being on my own," she said. "She was a friend, instantly. People are really nice over here, really welcoming and they try to help you explain stuff, make sure you feel comfortable."
Jessica took interest in Student Government, the Student Activities Council, and a pre-law club, as well as the Catholic Newman Center and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. At Redemptress High School in Baton Rouge, she participated in a number of ministry activities and enjoyed them.

O-Fest, she said, presented a world of opportunities.

"I think it's because I'm talking to all the organizations here. They're explaining things, getting everyone together...the music, the food. It's like a gathering for everyone."

Stepping and strolling along the sidewalk as the fall freshmen talked, members of UNO's National Pan Hellenic Council fraternities got surrounding students into the groove as bystanders watched and cheered, sometimes falling in line themselves to show off their moves.

Student Organization leaders turned on the smiles and recruited.

"We're getting really great response," said Ariel Moore, 21, a senior from Mandeville, La. and vice president of recruiting for Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. "It seems like a lot of girls are very interested in Greek Life this year, more than usual. Everybody seems like they want to go Greek. All the girls anyway. I haven't talked to the guys."
Moore and sorority sisters wore strapless turquoise dresses and tan leather sandals in a show of solidarity and sisterhood. The sorority's colors are turquoise and gray.

Moore is onto something, said Dale O'Neill, UNO Leadership Coordinator. UNO recognizes fourteen Greek organizations — seven sororities and seven fraternities — each of which is a campus chapter of a national group. Over the last year, National Pan-Hellenic Council sororities have grown by nearly 20 percent, while Inter Fraternity Council fraternities have grown by 22.4 percent.

O-Fest may have fallen at the end of long and invigorating day, but the nighttime fun was just beginning, students said. Next up on the agenda: Late Night at the Rec, and an Improv Show led by UNO Orientation Leaders.


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