What goes into making a great O-Week?
Each year, Laurier welcomes all new first year students with Orientation Week: a week of various events to engage all new students and teach them about university life, safety when away from home, and Laurier-specific opportunities available to them.
“I am very excited about O-week and I can’t wait to see all the new Golden Hawks! This year the focus has been on maintaining wellness through transition and healthy habits to help students thrive throughout their time here at the University,” said Students’ Union president and CEO Zemar Hakim in an email statement.
Events this year will include opening ceremonies, a welcome concert by Jazz Cartier, a clubs fair and Campus Fest, Shine Time with Jeremie Saunders, closing ceremonies and a football game. Extra events are being held for those who have purchased a “Golden Ticket,” including the headphone disco, O-Carnival and a movie under the stars, among others.
“Our main focus is our first years of course, but then our volunteers making sure that we get people to volunteer with the Students’ Union, especially with the Student Choice Initiative happening,” said Sammi Marino, O-Week coordinator for 2019.
“With the Student Choice Initiative we had to change our ticketing process, last year we had this new fee on our tuition which was called “Laurier 101 and Transition” fee, we share this fee with the transition and learning office, they use some of it for Headstart and webinars, and we use it for essential programming like the consent talk, academic sessions and opening ceremonies, a lot of what happens in the daytime.”
Many of the events are not only put in place to introduce new students to Laurier, but also so they can look out for their own safety, inquire about opportunities at the school and learn about the resources available not just through the school, but in their own dorms.
“We had to split up our nighttime programming, which is non-essential, so that is our Golden Ticket. They have to purchase that on their own,” Marino said.
“We still have out Positive Pulse where we collaborate with the athletics department — we still have our consent talk called “Can I Kiss You” given by Mike, he comes back every year. This year we have changed our Get Involved fair: we have two now, one on Thursday which is our Clubs Fair and one on Friday which is Campus Fest, that has replaced our Waterloo Fest. We tried to centralize everything on Laurier’s campus because our students are more prone to staying on campus throughout the first week.”
As always, the teams are divided into four colour groups, the Gold Infinity, Red Rival, Green Cyclone and Blue Riptide, and will compete against each other in multiple events with one eventually being crowned the winner of O-Week.
“I hope that Orientation Week can be the starting point of these students realizing what the Students’ Union can do for them, knowing that these opportunities exist for them to get involved, to attend events, have an enjoyable experience, meet new people and access our services. I want them to know Orientation Week is the foundation of what is available to them. A lot of time[s] you can go through your years without realizing it all comes back to the Students’ Union,” said Twan Dieker, vice president of programming and services for WLUSU on the Waterloo campus.
“This year we’ve made it intentional that ownership is that it’s by the Students’ Union, this is what we are working towards and this is what we can do for you, so I hope to see that come out this year in O-Week.”
O-Week will also conclude with Shine Day before their opening ceremonies, where students will be split up into groups to scatter across Waterloo to raise money for Shinerama as they wash cars or collect change from passersby for cystic fibrosis.
“I’m excited for Shine Time this year: in the past we’ve had different partners in the community come in to tell their personal stories, but this year we invited Jeremie Saunders who is the co-host of Sick Boy podcast. Also I am excited for carnival as well as cheer off,” Marino said.
“I’m super excited about Jeremie too — he lives with cystic fibrosis — the first time I heard him speak, he said the average life expectancy for people living with his condition was 30 years old and he was turning 30 in two months from then, so he talked about what it was like to live life with an expiration date,” Dieker said.
“The purpose of his podcast is that he invites others with chronic illnesses on to speak on what they live with every day, it’s a humorous podcast to take away the powers of illness, it’s very motivating to have him speak to you whether you live with chronic illness or not.”
O-week is put together entirely by volunteers from across the upper-year Laurier community, with dozens of students volunteering to be icebreakers — someone that students can connect with all year long if they ever need advice or assistance.
“I am excited for our team — we have a phenomenal O-week team, our head icebreakers, our executives, our co-ordinators, our team leads; they’ve all had their own vision for the year and how this week is going to go, I’m excited to see that come to fruition and see them shine in their element,” Dieker said.
“Sammi and I have been focusing on empowering them to exceed more than what we’ve just focused on, so I’m excited to see how they perform during and beyond the week.”
Orientation Week is just one week that opens up the doors to hundreds of events and opportunities offered at Laurier throughout a student’s undergraduate and potential graduate studies, and it’s goals to keep the spirits up and retain involvement at the school.
“Past Orientation Week I think it’s incredibly important for students to be transparent with their don and their icebreakers — that’s what they are there for. We are really emphasizing that to our volunteers, they could really help these first years blossom, I think first years shouldn’t be hesitant on using the resources available to them,” Marino said.
“I think we intentionally place resources in your building or in a LOCUS community so people can access those resources and not be afraid to ask for help when the first door closes, because that happens to a lot of people, saying to your don or icebreaker that you are looking for other opportunities out there. There are so many — we want to make sure people are using those resources because I think that’s really important,” Dieker said.