When Archer Ward and June Mireles learned that their summer Orientation Leader experience would take place solely over Zoom, they were both shocked and unsure of what to expect.
Holding orientation meetings with students over Zoom felt a bit like walking into the unknown. Every orientation before had leaned heavily on the in-person nature of seeing the campus, talking to peers and mentors, and connecting with everyone around you. Archer and June knew that they’d have to be inventive, creative, and dedicated if they wanted to give these students the Bronco welcome that they deserved—so they got to work.
Each day consisted of a lot of Zoom calls. They did everything they could to stay connected with students, and mostly, that meant Zoom calls.
They held virtual orientation over the course of a week for their assigned group of students, helped advisors with virtual registration, and held Zoom question panels as well. But even when they weren’t connected over the screen, they also kept in touch with students via email and text to help guide them in their orientation.
For both Orientation Leaders, connectivity and making the students feel comfortable was very important to them. As such, icebreaker questions and just really taking time to share information about each other was so crucial.
For June, talking about things like music preferences, hobbies, and sharing things about themselves was key. June wanted to foster an open environment and, for her, that meant that she led by example.
“We worked to create meaningful connections by being vulnerable with our groups about what our college experiences actually looked like. In doing this, we hoped that students would be able to resonate with us and feel comfortable coming to us in the future!”
And she was right. Even after orientation was over, students still reach out to her to ask questions, tell her about their schedules, and ask about her own experiences with classes.
Archer’s motto over orientation was FLEXIBILITY. As he connected with students, he would try certain icebreakers, approaches, and questions to get students involved. If something didn’t work, he changed course and corrected it. Ultimately, he landed on a low-key, friendly, and funny approach to connecting with students.
“My partner and I came up with a unique icebreaker to do over Zoom. We surveyed all our students on their corn-on-the-cob eating technique! We wanted to do something different because we knew the virtual environment would make breaking the ice that much harder. I worked pretty well for us actually! We had a lot of students who really got into the debate and it was really funny at times.”
By the end of orientation, students were encouraged to connect over social media with the friends they had made and they had people to turn to if they had questions, needed advice, or just felt plain lost. But it wasn’t only a learning experience for new students. Archer was referred to the job by some friends who had previously been Orientation Leaders and he said he grew on a personal level by taking it on.
“I learned a lot about myself. I feel more confident talking in front of crowds, I’m more empathetic, and that flexibility piece. This job is just so unique that I think anybody can learn something new about themselves.”
As a new student, June’s Orientation Leader was helpful and welcoming, which made her want to be that kind of resource to other incoming students and she wanted to share her love for Boise State with new students. During this process, she realized how important this type of connection is for new Broncos.
“As an OL, I learned just how important orientation is to incoming students, especially when they are coming into a virtual year. It is the first time that they are able to make connections with their peers, and I learned that the most important thing is to be vulnerable and encourage students to open up so they can make connections as well!”
As for anyone who might want to become an Orientation Leader in the future, June and Archer want you to be curious and enjoy your time.
Archer commented, “Be open-minded and curious! There is so much to learn from this job and many new people you will meet. This opportunity is unlike anything you will ever have again, and I strongly encourage you to take advantage of it!”
June ended with, “One piece of advice I have for future OLs is to take in the summer and enjoy it because it goes by so fast! The summer is so fun and it seems to be over before you know it, so enjoy it all!”
Although there was a small notion of uncertainty when they first started, both Archer and June were able to not only persevere, but come out the other end feeling like they had given their students a proper Boise State welcome. And that’s something to be proud of!
If you’d like to sign up to be an orientation leader, you can show your interest on the Become an Orientation Leader page. Applications open up early this spring, so show your interest early! Two virtual information sessions will be held, one on Jan 28 at 6 p.m. and the other on Feb 4 at the same time, to answer any questions you may have.