KUDOS: New Student Orientation Programs
KUDOS, Kutztown University's Dedication to Outstanding Service, focuses on university administrative departments and the individuals within them, giving the campus community a better look inside many of the working areas on campus.
This week, we sat down with the Office of New Student Orientation Programs to get an inside look at the dedicated individuals who coordinate all undergraduate orientation programs to introduce students to the concepts of academic success and co-curricular enrichment. In addition, they provide students and their families with a comprehensive overview of the university experience to give them the tools necessary for a successful transition into the college environment.
UR: Can you introduce yourselves and tell us how long you've been with KU?
LG: My name is Lisa Grabowski, I'm the coordinator of New Student Orientation and I've been at the university for 19 years.
WJ: My name is Wolphy Joseph, I'm a clerk typist II and I've been at Kutztown for more than six years.
UR: What is your department's role and mission at the university?
LG: New Student Orientation is responsible for freshmen, parent and transfer orientation. Our job is to help students become acclimated to the institution. We start working with them just as they begin their journey at KU - it's a very exciting job. We are responsible for helping students get acquainted with the university and become aware of all the wonderful things that are available to them, from academics to student life. We try to set the tone and help students become the best that they can be.
WJ: In a way, we're the welcoming committee. Lisa, myself and our staff do our best to welcome new students, make them feel at home and help them acquire that Kutztown-familial feeling that our campus and community is known for.
UR: Can you explain your department's staff make-up and responsibilities?
LG: In addition to Wolphy and myself, we have an extraordinary graduate assistant, Bradley Simko, who will be graduating in May, so we'll be having a new assistant join us this fall. We are also fortunate to be staffed with an incredible undergraduate staff who really are the heart and soul of New Student Orientation. We have one group that works primarily with freshmen, another group that works primarily with transfer students and one student who oversees the entire family program. It takes courage and confidence to talk with so many students and families and help them feel at ease; there can be a lot of tears at orientation. I love seeing our students who can recognize that and show empathy and concern for those individuals. Our undergraduate staff brings the KU spirit to our program and without them, I don't think we could conduct New Student Orientation. They really tell the story of what it's like to be a KU student as they help new students feel more at ease and learn more about the journey that they're about to undertake. I don't know what I would do without them! I personally do more of the programming aspects and collaborate with just about every department on-campus. It really does take an entire university to pull together to both recruit and retain students, as well as put on orientation because it involves various departments like academics, student life, facilities and dining services. We want to showcase the institution, so my job is to work with all those departments to put together our schedule, as well as work with the registrar's office to make sure that everything is planned for students coming in. I'm also the advisor to two student groups on campus, which I think is very important to fostering growth in those areas as well. I'm very excited to be a part of that because it's fun to remain active with our students - I learn so much from them every day.
WJ: I work in the customer service and back-end aspects of our department. I send communications to students and parents, send communications to departments about what we have coming up, and answer student and parent questions about registering for orientation. It's a lot of reporting and analytical tasks. We often have students come in who we meet through orientation that will utilize us as a resource and become part of our office, which is great because it gives us a chance to follow up with them.
UR: How does your department serve students and the campus community?
LG: We serve students by providing the best programming that we can and by also having the best-trained staff that we can, which we do through a number of ways. We work very hard to keep our student staff informed about things on campus. We also acknowledge that it's important in orientation to recognize where students are. We have a lot of first-generation students here at KU, so we want to make sure that the information we're providing is relevant to them and that we are also doing as much in terms of outreach beyond orientation. When a student participates in orientation, their orientation facilitators will continue contact with them afterwards because they develop friendships. I think it's something really unique for us at Kutztown.
WJ: Since we're one of the first offices that students interact with as they come to KU, down the line they may have a question and will remember us, so they'll call directly. We always try to be a resource for students and connect them to the right people.
UR: What are the points of pride in your department?
LG: Certainly working with Wolphy is a point of pride for me because she is exceptional, works very hard and is a joy to be around. Our undergraduate staff is also amazing; they're dedicated to helping and making sure that new students have the same pride in being a Golden Bear and feel the same love for the university that they do. I'm very proud of the fact that our staff has a 90 percent retention rate. It's not uncommon to find student staff members that have been here two or three years, which I think says a lot about our program. In general, I'm a KU alum and earned my master's degree here. I think it's an excellent school and have always wanted to work here - I'm so glad that I was able to do that. KU has so much to offer, excellent faculty and an excellent reputation. Kutztown is a marvelous place to be.
WJ: I take pride in KU being a place in which great mentorship is fostered. I've found a great mentor in Lisa and I think a lot of our students have found a great mentor in her too in that they'll start with us in the beginning and she'll work with them continually. It's been a joy to watch how our staff has grown over the years under her leadership. I've also found a mentor here in Ms. T Brown. I think this community is a community in which people invest in others, whether it's in students, co-workers or employees. I'm also very proud of our staff. Even if they don't continue working with us, they are brand ambassadors who are all so pumped about KU, which is something that never goes away.
UR: What would you like people to know about your department that they may not know already?
LG: I think that there's this idea that orientation is just a summer thing, but it actually takes a year to plan. We start in the fall with recruiting our staff and end in August with Welcome Weekend. The signs hanging in our outer office represent our different groups and have become a tradition. We've kept them over the years because it's a wonderful memory for all of us to look back and enjoy. We also recognize that every student who starts here at KU has a story. In sharing these, we draw strength from one another which helps to build comradery.
WJ: I agree. It's a cycle that starts in August and ends the next August during welcome weekend.
UR: How can the campus community learn more or become involved with your department?
LG: By contacting us! We welcome anyone to sit-in on orientation to see what we do. The only thing the community can't participate in is the actual freshman advising sessions, but they're welcome to come and listen to any presentations for families or general student presentations.
WJ: We also have a website at www.kutztown.edu/orientation.
UR: What's your favorite thing about your KU experience?
LG: This campus is beautiful and has its own unique vibe. My favorite time of year is in late August when school is about to begin. I love hearing the marching band practice because it reminds me that the fall semester is about to begin and that fall is right around the corner.
WJ: For me, it's KU around this time of the year (spring). The campus is blooming again and the water fountains have been turned back on. When I started here six years ago, the first thing I did was take a walk around the pathway by the bear statue. Each time I've done it since then, I get a sense of nostalgia with the sound of the waterfall and the flowers coming up. I love it.
UR: What does "It's Good to be Golden" mean to you?
LG: For me, it means a positive state of mind. To be around a campus where there's learning and excitement, and where students are participating in that learning.
WJ: When people say that you're "golden," it means that you're all set. For me, being all set is something you can take comfort in. So, students come to orientation to make sure that they're set and then they can confidently step into their college careers.
KUDOS is published twice monthly by the office of University Relations. All issues can be found at www.kutztown.edu/KUDOS. For questions or more information, please contact University Relations at UR@kutztown.edu.