Being memorable to the zombies of orientation

In the past week I had the pleasure of delivering four presentations to newly-admitted students and their parents.  Okay… it was mostly their parents.  Each session was attended by approximately 25 people,  and the highest student headcount in any of my sessions was three. But, all four sessions were great, and the parents asked all the right questions and even played along with our quiz-show style presentation format.  Parents can be great reinforcers of our message, even if one worries somewhat about the filtering process.  So, I was thrilled to have such an attentive and interested audience.

At the conclusion of my fourth presentation I staffed an information table among a market place of university services.  It was the end of the orientation program, and 90 percent of those wandering down the isles had the affected gate of a student zombie.  But, those few dozen students that coerced themselves into one more conversation with yet another staffer (me)  had a familiar refrain:

I’ll think about career stuff later.

The parents, who were equally worn down from the program’s pace and volume, dutifully took each of my handouts and said something akin to, “my daughter says she’ll think about career stuff later, but I’ll make sure she gets these.”

Of course we must recognize that orientation is a time of excitement and is the next step in a big transition in the lives of these students.  Orientation programs are also a time of “brain saturation,” in which the attendees are usually given more information than they can possibly process.  So, the best one can hope for is for students and parents to remember who you are and why you exist.  But, over the years I’ve learned it’s best to not expect them to remember the specifics — there’s just too much to take in.

So, we hope.  We hope we made a good impression and seemed friendly and approachable.  We hope students remember that handout, now crumpled at the bottom of their book bag, picked up from the info table.  We hope parents utter our name during that tear-filled phone conversation in the second semester when their student is entirely frustrated.

We hope we’ve planted enough seeds so they remember that we exist not only for resumes and career fairs, but also for support and encouragement.  For exploration and excitement.  For conversation and collaboration.  We hope.

Cross posted at the Student Affairs Collaborative Blog

Gary Alan Miller

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