Orientation introduces new students to Hilltop


Life on the Hilltop includes academics and, occasionally, spontaneity like St. Edward’s rendition of the Harlem Shake.

The undergraduate orientation leadership team has expanded in parallel with a steady in enrollment over the last 13 years. A total of 19 students will welcome an estimated 780 incoming freshmen this summer, with one more Student Orientation Leader, SOL, than in 2012, when 777 freshmen enrolled in the university.

This is more than twice the size of the freshmen class that entered St. Edward’s in 2000, which consisted of 365 students.

As of press time, the Office of Undergraduate Admission is still finalizing the exact numbers for the size of the class of 2017, said Dinah Kinard, associate director of Undergraduate Admission.

The decision to expand is one of necessity.

“We want to keep the small groups to 10-11 students and hiring an extra Orientation Leader will let us do this,” Associate Dean of Students Connie Rey Rodriguez said.

New students attend one of six summer orientation sessions for an introduction to university life that includes presentations about academic support services, registering for classes and opportunities to get involved on campus, among other activities.

“Orientation condenses the St. Edward’s experience down into a small two-day taste of what life is like on the Hilltop,” senior and SOL Jenny Eakin said.

The first session runs June 13-14, followed by one more the following week, three in the month of July and the last in August. Session six, held Aug. 21-22, is timed especially for international students and freshmen traveling to St. Edward’s from out-of-state as school starts Aug. 26. Each session includes about 135 participants.

“It takes a village to orient the students,” Rodriguez said. Planning and carrying out orientation is a collaborative effort between students and staff from different offices on campus, including Student Financial Services, the Dean of Students Office, Student Life and Academic Planning and Support Services.

Thirteen orientation leaders will lead groups of 10-15 freshmen throughout the summer. Rodriguez said there are also two international students on the orientation leadership team this year.

The job is one of introducing students to life on campus, often referred to as the St. Edward’s experience.

“As an SOL, I’m there to help facilitate that experience, offer information and advice, and do whatever I can to make the incoming freshmen and their families feel welcome to campus,” Eakin said.

Six Student Orientation Coordinators, SOC, work behind the scenes to plan the logistics of the summer sessions. Junior and SOC Kaitlin Eighme said this includes answering phone calls from incoming freshmen, training SOL’s and coordinating with other offices on campus to organize presentations for orientation sessions.

New additions to orientation include financial literacy sessions specifically for freshman, which previously were only held for parents.

Orientation also includes night entertainment, as the session runs two days and students stay the night in a dorm. In years past, this included performances from Brother Muller and his Brothers, volleyball and other games.

Traditionally, SOL’s have told ghost stories one evening, though attendance is optional. The stories range from ones that are more than 100 years old to hauntings that have occurred as recently as two years ago.

In addition to information sessions about services available on campus for students, the orientation schedule includes tours of residence halls and time to meet other students.

“The best part of my job is that I get to welcome new freshmen to campus and show them exactly what it is I love about the place that I’ve called home over the past few years,” Eakin said.