Barely two weeks on the job, and just more than three days after moving trucks dropped off their worldly belongings, NIU President Doug Baker, and his wife Dana, played host to this summer’s team of NIU Orientation Leaders.
Despite the less than ideal circumstances for entertaining, they weren’t about to allow a few unpacked boxes and artwork waiting to be hung on the walls derail a Huskie tradition of a picnic at the president’s house.”
“Those students exemplify the Huskie Spirit and everything we want the world to know about us, and we wanted to meet them,” Baker said after an evening spent getting to know the 10 Orientation Leaders and other members of the Orientation Office. Also on hand was Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Eric Weldy, who, like Baker started at the university on July 1.
The group is a crucial link in helping students make a successful transition to life on campus, Baker said.
“Whether you are coming straight from high school or from a community college, there is so much to learn,” he said. “It’s important for new students to meet some of our most outstanding students, hear about their experiences and learn about all of the resources available to help them. It is an important first steps on a path that we hope leads them to career success.”
The importance of that first contact was emphasized by the stories of at least three of the Orientation Leaders who said that their own first point of contact with NIU was instrumental in cementing their decision to attend the university.
“Kyle (Bak, a student supervisor for the program) was my Orientation Leader and he really made me want to come to NIU,” said Bobby Truong, a sophomore music education major. He has never regretted the decision. “There is a real sense of community here, and I have met some of the greatest people.”
That sense of community, even family, was a common theme among the Orientation Leaders as they introduced themselves to the Bakers, and it is something that they try to share with the incoming students they meet every day.
“We’ve been training since February to do this job, but I find that the best information I give each day is the things that come from the heart,” said Ivana Padilla, a biology major from California. “Every day is a new audience. Every day you get to make a first impression. It’s very exciting.”
As the students shared their stories with the Bakers, along with their opinions on the relative merits of Ollie’s frozen custard versus Aspen Leaf frozen yogurt, they made an indelible first impression on the university’s new first family.
“They are a great team,” Baker said. “I’m delighted to have such a tremendous group representing the university, greeting new students and their parents and welcoming them into the Huskie family.”