Welcome Home

Whether you first arrived on campus 5 years ago or 50, chances are you can still recall the mix of feelings you experienced back then—fear, excitement, uncertainty, hope.

Welcome Home

In recent years, with memories of their earliest experiences at IIT still vivid, current students have signed on to become orientation counselors. Each fall, between 40 and 50 go all out to help incoming undergraduates settle into their home away from home as quickly and effortlessly as possible—and have a lot of fun in the process.

A four-day affair, orientation is designed to get students through the logistics of checking in and setting up house while getting familiar with the university. During an ambitious and varied schedule of meetings and activities, incoming students have the opportunity to learn about university resources, interact with professors, and make new friends.

Mary Taylor-Blasi, director of Student Activities and Orientation, has one major objective for those critical four days: to give new students all the information and support they need to get off to a great start at IIT. “My job,” she says, “revolves around showing them that the university cares about each and every one of them and is committed to their success.”

The crew that works most closely with the students is a team of orientation counselors. Freshmen who are especially pleased with their own introduction to IIT sign up as counselors for their sophomore year, and some return yet again the following year and serve as team leaders. Peer counselors receive a modest stipend and devote four Saturdays in the spring to intensive training and idea sharing in preparation for the fall program. In June, the counselors initiate first contact with their 15 to 20 freshmen via e-mail and often remain friends with them throughout their time at IIT and beyond.

Welcome Home

IIT senior in civil engineering Lynn Kohlhaas has served at three orientations, two as a team leader. One improvement since she started at IIT is that incoming students are contacted much earlier—in June—which gets everyone connected and makes the planning easier.

This happened in a big way in 2003, Kohlhaas says, with the addition of an online forum where information is posted, questions get answered, and everyone has a chance to get “pre-acquainted.” The incoming students can add topics and form their own discussion groups well before arriving at IIT. New in 2004 were handwritten postcards and printed business cards used by the orientation counselors.

Other key support groups are the Student Government Association, whose president, vice president, and treasurer were all fall 2004 counselors, and the International Student Organization, which sponsors a “Meet and Greet” service, picking up new international students at the airport and escorting them to campus.

Taylor-Blasi says the knowledge that the counselors and other participants share and the care they exhibit for incoming students create a sense of community that greatly enhances student life at IIT.

To see the full range of activities for fall 2004 orientation, visit SOAR.