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Helping Huskies point the way

August 24, 2010

Potential “customers” for the Huskies Helping Huskies booths were easy to find Monday, Aug. 23, on the first day of classes at NIU.

Their facial expressions ranged from puzzled to panic, and many were trying to make heads or tails out of a map. That is when the volunteers staffing the booths around campus would step in and provide assistance.

Brad Badgley, of NIU Health Enhancement, helps a student navigate campus on Day 1 of classes.

Over the course of the first two days of classes, more than 110 volunteers, at five locations across campus, will point hundreds of students in the right direction. They will also answer questions about the Huskie Bus Line, explain the ins-and-outs of student meal plans and handle a host of other questions, says Becky Harlow, assistant director of Student Involvement and Leadership Development, who oversees the program.

The program is almost as popular with those who staff the booths as it is with the student’s they assist, says Harlow. “We get a lot of volunteers who come back year after year because they enjoy interacting with the students and being part of that energy on the first day of classes,” she says.

Donna Smith, who works in the provost’s office, has been a Huskies Helping Huskies volunteer for four years. “It’s a big campus and it can be overwhelming, so I enjoy helping students,” says Smith.

Smith worked Monday at the station located on the south side of the Holmes Student Center, along with Brad Badgley of Health Enhancement. They directed students to McMurray Hall, Faraday Hall, the Music Building and Montgomery Hall, among other destinations. They also spent more than 15 minutes helping one incoming freshman sort out the location of a math class, contacting three different departments across campus, and one at Kishwaukee College, not only seeking out the location of the class, but also checking to see if a more convenient section might be available.

“That’s the kind of service we strive to provide,” says Harlow. “You don’t want to turn away a student without help on the first day of classes. It’s important that we do whatever we can to help them find an answer.”

The program has been in place for about five years, adds Harlow, who explained that it was started in an effort to extend the good will of Welcome Days to the first day of classes.

“We have so many Welcome Days events to help students acclimate to campus, but they just stopped on the first day of classes,” she says. “And that is when it is most important to be there for students and help them through what can be a stressful day.”

Last year, the program was expanded to the spring semester to assist the large transfer population that arrives on campus in January.

Harlow said that there are still a small number of volunteer opportunities on Tuesday, and she is already compiling a list of potential volunteers or next year. To get involved in Huskies Helping Huskies, contact her at (815) 753-6703.

by Joe King