News: Featured Stories

July 6, 2016

Student to Student

  • Amherst
New Students Orientation leaders ease transition to UMass

Senior Emily Tierney knew from her own New Students Orientation experience that she wanted to become an orientation leader. “They got me excited about UMass,” she says. “I looked up to them and I knew I wanted to be ‘that student’ for new students too.”Shiv Muruga, a second-year orientation leader, agrees, “At my orientation, the leaders were really excited and shared their experiences. It was something I wanted to be a part of, helping make it great for new students coming after me.”

New Students Orientation began June 6 and will continue through July 27 with new students arriving on campus in groups of 450 or so every Monday and Thursday. The two days (one for transfers) are packed with information sessions and activities that run the gamut from academics to finances to housing and community living, technology, safety, and more. It is the orientation leaders who keep it all running smoothly.

Their job is to help new students bridge the gap from high school to college. Orientation leaders welcome and introduce new students to campus, answer their questions and ease their fears, and help get them launched in their academic career. They share their own student experiences, help new students learn about the many opportunities available on campus, and give advice on what it takes to be a successful UMass Amherst student.

“I encourage students to really push themselves,” says second-year orientation leader Aaron Riobe. “Step outside their comfort zone.”

“Don’t be afraid to jump into something,” adds Muruga. “If you want to do it, do it.”

Orientation leaders are the first people new students get to know when they arrive on campus, and their two-day immersion, especially the small group sessions, creates a special bond between the students and the leaders.

“You really learn how to be a role model,” says second-year orientation leader Olivia Laramie. “I get students running up to me saying, ‘Hey, you were my orientation leader!’ They remember you and they remember what you tell them.”

“During small groups we teach them about academic, university, and Gen-Ed requirements—all those things we need to repeat so they remember them,” says Riobe. “The small group interactions are also chances for students to meet other students in their major, sport, track, or college—where they get to know other students and make friends.”

“One of our goals,” says Tierney, “is to make sure every new student walks out of orientation with at least one new friend.”