Thursday, April 3, 2014

University of New Orleans Brings Home Awards from SROW

orientation leadersAn orientation leader, or OL, assists incoming students with the transition to UNO's academic and student life, introducing them to university resources, campus facilities, student services, social and recreational activities, and answering any questions that they may have concerning UNO or the college experience.

For the sixth year in a row, the University of New Orleans Orientation Leaders and orientation staff returned with awards from the Southern Regional Orientation Workshop, also known as SROW. 

"SROW serves as a wonderful opportunity for our students, graduate students and professional staff to present, network, share ideas and bring new ideas back to UNO. For the past six years, UNO has come home with at least one award," said Christy Heaton, UNO associate director for orientation and first-year success. "Several of the programs we implement at orientation or within the first year are based on ideas we have brought back from NODA conferences: color groups, Transfer Mentor Program, First Gen Mentor Program, Privateer Plunge, to name a few."

An orientation leader, or OL, assists incoming students with the transition to UNO's academic and student life, introducing them to university resources, campus facilities, student services, social and recreational activities and answering any questions that they may have concerning UNO or the college experience. These active campus leaders work tirelessly all year to deliver New Student Orientation Sessions and host other welcome events. They are considered the "front line" at the University.

The Southern Regional Orientation Workshop, known to higher education leaders as SROW, is the largest regional workshop sponsored by the National Orientation Directors Association (NODA). More than 2,200 participants from 81 colleges in nine states — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky — attended this year's event, held over three days at Clemson University. This year, the Office of Enrollment Services brought 41 students, two graduate students and five professional staff members to SROW. All UNO graduate assistants and professional staff who attended had been selected in advance by NODA to deliver presentations.

SROW is a fun-filled three days full of cheers, skits, songs and other fun activities aimed at making college freshmen and first-year transfer students comfortable in their new university homes. But the regional workshop is no easy adventure. Participants participate in a flurry of skill-building educational sessions and some of the most talented and experienced among them are asked to help deliver workshops. 

Orientation Leaders and staff presented eight educational sessions, based on successful University programs, said Heaton. Topics included: transfer student initiatives; the Privateer Enrollment Center; choosing a career in higher education; being inclusive at Orientation; an extended Orientation panel; transition from student leader to a graduate student; panel of transfer students and transfer student summit.

Two case study teams — one graduate student team and one undergraduate student team — also competed. Vincent Prior and Lindsey Desselle gave the graduate student presentation. April Gremillion and Ashley Fuselier gave the undergraduate competition.

The Orientation Leaders took second place in the skit competition, with a long-practiced performance. The skit competition typically takes place the first night of SROW, said Heaton. Schools compete performing self-created skits centered around their University. This year marked the third consecutive year that the UNO Orientation Leaders placed in the "top three." In 2012, they earned a second place prize and in 2013 took first place.

Heaton and Dale O'Neill, director of student involvement and leadership programs at UNO, took home the conference's Outstanding Innovative Program for the Privateer Plunge. Held at the start of each school year, the Privateer Plunge is six weeks of welcome programming designed to introduce new students to all things UNO.

The Privateer Plunge starts with a week of fun activities focused on welcoming students back to campus — Welcome Back Luau, Fresh Fest (a student organization fair), Blackout Party (a party for freshmen — then spirals into five more weeks in which students learn as much as possible about resources on campus, ranging from the chemistry department to financial aid. The Privateer Plunge not only exposes students to resources and opportunities they may not have considered, said O'Neill, it helps them build stronger relationships with their peers, student success counselors, staff and faculty.

"Research shows that students, if they're going to transfer, they decide the first six weeks of school," said O'Neill. "So our idea was to get as much programming and as much student life in the first six weeks so that people really love UNO, get really ingrained and don't want to transfer."

O'Neill, who recently won an Outstanding MidLevel Director Award from the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), named the Privateer Plunge one of the accomplishments of which she is most proud. The Privateer Plunge also won a national award through ACPA – Outstanding Collaborative Initiative.

 

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