Orientation Week is probably the most important time in a young student’s life. This is where you will get your first taste of life as a university student. The University of Toronto has a reputation for putting on one of the most diverse, engaging, and beneficial orientations around, inspiring countless incoming students to become leaders in their Colleges and Faculties. This sense of community and belonging may seem to foster itself through various programming and events that just seem to happen, but the truth is that orientation week is a well-oiled machine that requires extensive planning over months! Every orientation coordinator who decides to take up the helm sometime in March of the previous school year, doesn’t do so light-heartedly. They all know that orientation week planning takes countless hours, late nights, all their will-power, and their entire summer, just to see it come and go in a week. Ultimately, these select few don’t do this for reputation, fame, or even compensation! They do it to create that same sense of community they felt coming into university that inspired them to become leaders andn turn, they inspire the next generation of leaders. Here are a few current Orientation Coordinators describing their journey through orientation.
Brianne Katz-Griffin – Orientation Coordinator: Innis College
It seems that in every leadership conference, training session, or leadership discussion, everyone loves to ask, “What is a leader?” I cringe when I am asked this. Don’t get me wrong, there are many qualities involved in being a leader, but there are no definitive qualities that all leaders must possess. There is charisma, but not every leader is the most charismatic person in the room. There is motivation, but not every leader has a distinct motivation or drive. Every leader is different and never easily defined.
I consider myself a leader, but I didn’t always feel this way. I didn’t realize I was a leader until I was in Grade 10. I was asked by my chemistry teacher to attend a leadership conference called Central Ontario Leadership Seminars (which I am involved with to this day). He saw a potential in me that I never realized was there. After attending this conference, I fell in love with the student leadership culture. This group of young leaders who wanted to bring positivity to the world inspired me. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up as a kid, I’d say “famous.” I now realize why I said that. I wanted to feel as though my opinions were valued and more importantly, I wanted to make people happy. I now share that through my leadership positions. The positions I have held such as Social Director, and now Vice President and Orientation Coordinator have many things in common. I bring people together socially and make them feel welcome in the community. I provide a support system for the first years that are experiencing a ton of changes in their lives and make sure that they have the best possible university experience.
The experiences and skills that I bring forward in my future endeavors are not the ones I learned in POL200. The experiences I bring with me are my hard skills that I’ve gained from event planning, running a council, and coordinating Innis College Frosh Week. The diplomatic skills I have gained from working with a wide array of people are stronger than simply studying how Aristotle and Plato differed. I respect my academics and value them more than most people know (I am at U of T, after all), but the fact of the matter is that they are not enough to prepare me for the real world. I highly encourage U of T students to get involved on campus in some shape or form. It can be simply going to events, joining a club, or running for an elected council position. U of T is so big that it is hard to find a place you can call home. Whether it is within their college, residence, program, club, or bathroom stall, there is always a home to be found at U of T. I am happy and proud to say that I have found my home not only within Innis College, but also within U of T.
Chris Soong – Orientation Coordinator: Faculty of Music
My experience organizing the orientation for the Faculty of Music as an Orientation Coordinator has been one of the most valuable learning experiences I’ve ever had. I have been fortunate enough to work with team members who understand the value and importance of creating a successful orientation week. One thing I learned was that your plans may not always go the way you want them to go, and ideas that seem so fruitful to yourself may be shot down by your team, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line. These experiences will encourage you to step outside your comfort zone to find that creativity box you didn’t know you had. Having had the opportunity to be a leader and an executive for the orientation committee in the most recent two years, the coordinator role has given me a chance to meet and help the incoming students – because that’s what organizing this week is about! So far so good, I am really looking forward to having an awesome week with the newest members of our music family.
Chantal Issa – Orientation Coordinator: Woodsworth College
As my time at UofT is slowly coming to an end there were many things that I wanted to accomplish before I was able to say that my time here was complete. I personally have tried to get involved in the Woodsworth, and the University of Toronto, community all four years I’ve been attending. It started out small by joining the house council at my residence, and ended off quite large by being the Vice President of Internal Affairs of our student association at Woodsworth last year and Orientation Coordinator this year. I have always believed that getting involved is so important and adds something special to your university experience. Without getting involved, putting yourself out there, and learning from other student leaders, I feel like you haven’t fully experienced what the University and its students have to offer here! You also have a great opportunity to make a difference on this campus, even in a small way. That feeling was something that never got old for me and I continue to search for ways that I can make a difference through leadership opportunities.
With graduation coming up this year, Orientation was the big thing I wanted to get involved in! Looking back on my first year, and how tough it was for me to adjust and really settle into the university life here, I know how important that first week and the impression it leaves is on an incoming student. I wanted to ensure that incoming Woodsworth students were welcomed in the best way possible to this community they will call their second home. Being an orientation coordinator has allowed for me to work towards this goal of ensuring that our Orientation Week is inclusive, safe, welcoming, and of course fun for all that participate in it. This year, I really tried and encourage everyone I knew to become a leader and I think Orientation is such a great leadership opportunity that is offered to incoming and current students. For our volunteers they have an opportunity to fulfill a mentor role for the week and make connections with incoming students. They also get to obtain some great life skills which they get from the different forms of training they must go through and get to use it in the field! For incoming students that see these student leaders, it encourages them to become leaders themselves! Whether that is them trying to become an Orientation Leader the following year or trying to get involved in the Woodsworth Community because their leader was able to encourage them to do so.
I definitely think everyone should give back to their college/ faculty/department/campus and orientation is such a fun and rewarding way to do so! If you have the opportunity to get involved with Orientation in the upcoming years, definitely take that chance! You won’t regret it! I certainly didn’t.