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O where art thou, O leaders?

Student Life is seeking volunteers to represent UFV and help welcome new students in this year’s Orientation event in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Each year around 100 student volunteers are needed to lead campus tours and introduce new students to UFV; however, volunteers for this coming August have been scarce. Only around 20 students have so far applied to become an “O leader.”

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By Nadine Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: July 4, 2012

Student Life is seeking volunteers to represent UFV and help welcome new students in this year’s Orientation event in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Each year around 100 student volunteers are needed to lead campus tours and introduce new students to UFV; however, volunteers for this coming August have been scarce. Only around 20 students have so far applied to become an “O leader.”

According to Tim Rempel, who programs Orientation, the lack of interest may have stemmed from the time-consuming application program. Student Life is working on “balancing the training and opportunity for the leaders, but also respecting their time,” Rempel stated. The initial application process consisted of a two-page application, an essay, an interview process, and four training sessions. After taking into account students’ busy schedules, the essay component has now been removed.

Orientation draws around 1000 attendees in Abbotsford, and another 300 in Chilliwack.

Martin Kelly of the Student Life team said that Orientation now needs “ambassadors.” Student ambassadors don’t need to come to any of the training sessions, but simply show up on the day. Their duties will include assisting people, for example, in finding faculties, or showing new students how to pay for parking. The application for this position is simple; according to Kelly, as long as they’re not axe murderers, they’ll be fine. The ambassadors will be “as involved as they wish to become” and no more.

Student Life has high hopes for Orientation, aspiring ultimately to reach 100 per cent of new students. Right now they’re hitting about 38 per cent of incoming students.

Student Life aims to expand even past Orientation itself. “Hopefully, we will turn it into a student life ambassador program, going beyond Orientation,” explained Rempel. “O leaders would be part of this ambassador program, participate in events, attending leadership conferences, [and] gaining some leadership experience, all of which is documented by our department. And when it comes time to find a job, we will gladly write you that glowing letter of reference.”

But none of these expansions can be made without the help of students. The issue, Kelly said, is marketing. Because Orientation is not mandatory, it has to be, as he put it, “saleable.” In other words, “it has to be fun, sexy, with food, or students are not going to come to it.” And neither are the volunteers.

The goal of Student Life, Kelly explained, is to create a student-helping-student environment. “Students have the power and ability to change this place, if only they knew it.” The cost of pay parking, not enough classes, or not the right ones – all these issues can be solved if students stop just complaining about it and get involved.

“We have our own 13,000 member community with the exact same issues as anybody else’s out there,” said Kelly. Becoming an O leader could be the first step to bettering our university and our lives.

President of SUS, Carlos Vidal, was once an O leader himself, volunteering at Orientation from 2008 through 2010. The benefits to both the students and the volunteers, Vidal said, are high. “You can have all your academic accomplishments on your resume, but if you’re also a volunteer, or a member of a club, it says a lot more about you than just your degrees,” he explained. “It says that you got involved in making your community a better place.”

When asked about the qualities that O leaders should have, Vidal said that all you need to do is be able to “share your own experiences and have a little fun.” He told new students his knowledge about everything from the lines at Tim Horton’s to where to get free parking.

Overall, Vidal’s experience as an O leader was a good one, and being able to put it on a resume was a bonus for him.

This year, Orientation runs on August 30 in Abbotsford and August 23 in Chilliwack. Students interested in becoming ambassadors can email leadership@ufv.ca for more information.

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