KNOXVILLE — Twenty-four upperclassmen students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are charged with one pretty big job: give hundreds of incoming freshmen a taste of UT life in just two days.
It takes six weeks of 15-hour average workdays for these student orientation leaders to host the nearly 4,200 incoming freshmen — and about 4,000 parents — during UT’s freshman summer orientation.
It’s easy to say they have their work cut out for them — with 16 separate sessions of orientation each week for more than six weeks — but orientation leaders are well-prepared.
All leaders take a leadership class during the semester that teaches them effective ways to manage the groups. Before orientation begins, the leaders have about three weeks of all-day training. They visit UT departments, learn the Rocky Top dance and practice multiple skits. They learn more about how the university works and how to share their best advice with students and parents.
But while the training and preparation are important, so are the orientation leaders’ attitudes.
Three second-year orientation leaders, seniors Amie Misaiphon and Tyrone Beach and junior Alex Mullins, try to stay focused while encouraging everyone to have a good time.
“It’s crazy sometimes,” Misaiphon said. “Each of us has a different schedule, which is helpful. But my energy level runs off of my excitement. Talking to parents and students really helps me stay alert — that and coffee.”
Although leaders have a heavy workload, they try to keep it fun and entertaining for each other and the new student groups. High energy is a must for orientation.
Beach is known for his hilarity, energy and unique introductions during orientation. This summer he plans to entertain
the massive crowds of parents and students by imitating Lebron James’ famous powder toss in his introduction, a pre-game ritual where James motivates the crowd by tossing powder in the air leaving him in a cloud of dust.
“I’m the jokester and always the loudest. I tell jokes and try to have really interactive orientation groups,” Beach said.”During introductions, students split into groups and when they see me they think, ‘He’s pumped,’ and they get excited too.”
As a first generation college student, Beach hopes to help incoming freshmen acclimate to UT.
“I want to find students that look overwhelmed or uncomfortable and reach out to them,” he said. “I like to try to connect with those that are alone and help them make friends with other freshmen.”
Orientation leaders work hard to make sure every freshman has a great first experience of college and leave with a better understanding of UT and its resources.
“It takes good friends to keep yourself going,” said Mullins. “Amie and Tyrone are my close friends and they are always on top of their work and encourage others to have fun. They both bring different perspectives to orientation that are vital to our work. At the end of the summer, it’s definitely worth it.”
C O N T A C T :
Bridget Hardy (865-974-2225, firstname.lastname@example.org)