Each year as a wide-eyed group of new first-year and transfer students descend upon campus in late August, they are greeted by energetic Brandeis students. Known to them as their Orientation Leaders (OLs), sporting anything from bucket hats to their matching bright blue shirts, their friendly faces and positive attitudes help the new students assimilate on campus. Amongst all of the Orientation Leaders are the four leaders of the group, the CORE Committee, or CORE.
Sohaima Khilji ’20
Sohaima Khilji ’20, a rising junior majoring in International and Global Studies and History, is also a member of this year’s CORE committee. She has been an Orientation Leader (OL) since August of 2017 and also was an OL in January 2018 for Midyear Orientation.
Orientation is a time of great change for a lot of students who have to adjust to their new reality of most likely living away from their families. It usually serves as the first step toward becoming a more independent person during the entire college experience. Khilji applied to be an OL at the end of her freshman year, as her personal first-year Orientation experience was “difficult… and I wanted the chance to let other incoming new students know that it’s okay to have a rocky transition to college!” Khilji wrote in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.
“My orientation experience my first year was interesting. I was super homesick and I didn’t get to meet a lot of people because of that. I definitely skipped out on events because I missed home so much,” said Khilji. Being a member of CORE allows those students to plan the Orientation events and workshops to create a welcoming environment for the first-years in the hopes of making them feel comfortable during such a big change in their lives. Additionally, CORE members have the ability to add their own special interests and talents into Orientation in a meaningful and engaging way, so that first-years begin to feel more comfortable at Brandeis.
Khilji explained that being on CORE differs from participating as an OL during Orientation, because “CORE works for 10 months to plan orientation!” Being an OL allows a student to become more involved with the few weeks leading up to Orientation in addition to Orientation itself, but CORE is a much bigger responsibility. The committee’s process is much more intensive, as they do the bulk of the planning and also have to train the OLs when they arrive early to campus to prepare for DEIS Week (Orientation). Additionally, Khilji mentioned that CORE members do not have “grouplets,” the term fondly preferred by OLs to describe the group of first-years they guide and get to know during Orientation week. While CORE members and OLs have very different jobs objectively, in the end they are both working towards the same goal: a fun and welcoming Orientation.
Khilji’s favorite part of being on the CORE committee is “being able to grow as a student leader.” In addition to all of the experience gained, she has also “loved working in such a fun and engaging office environment” with her fellow CORE members and the entire department of people working together toward a successful DEIS Week.
However, crafting the workshops and events for a crucial experience for a large group of new students does not come without stress. Being part of CORE means having to come up with the outline of Orientation, which can be daunting. “The most challenging part has been not letting the stress of the unknown get to me. There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to Orientation and it’s hard to not get stressed about the future!” Khilji said.
After 10 months of meticulous brainstorming and planning, Khilji is ready for orientation to begin and to see all of their plans come to life. “I am looking forward to everything!”
For the first-years arriving to campus, Khilji offers some advice for having a great first few days on the Brandeis campus: “Go to the events! It’s the best time in your college career to meet people and make friends!”
Erin Kobiella ’19
Erin Kobiella ’19, one of the members of CORE, is majoring in Biology, Neuroscience and Psychology. Kobiella has been involved in Orientation since her sophomore year, participating as a fall Orientation Leader (OL) her sophomore and junior year and a midyear OL once.
Outside of planning for Orientation, Kobiella is part of the Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra, where she plays trumpet. She is also a teacher’s assistant at Lemberg Children’s Center and bakes cupcakes with the Cupcake Club on campus.
Since starting at Brandeis and meeting her OLs, Kobiella knew she wanted to be an OL during her time at Brandeis. “‘This is Our House’ was one of the most memorable moments of my first-year Orientation, and I wanted the chance to experience that again and help show new students what being a Brandeis student is all about,” Kobiella wrote in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. She also noted that it was an opportunity to not only get more involved on campus, but also spend more time with her friends that were also applying.
Kobiella’s own OLs also played a large role in helping her find her place amongst Brandeis students, their advice sticking with her even through her final year at Brandeis. “Work hard while you’re at school, but also enjoy the ride,” Kobiella remembers her OLs telling her.
“College is filled with lots of amazing experiences that are unique to these four years, and while you want to do well in all your classes and prepare for a future career, do fun things and enjoy your time as an undergraduate,” she said.
Through her experiences as an OL, Kobiella said that she loves the positive energy that OLs bring and how they are all positive, supporting and caring for all members of the Brandeis community. One of her favorite activities during training is “color teams,” where OLs and Community Advisors (CAs) are grouped together for leadership activities. “I’d say one of the most rewarding parts of being an OL is when you see your grouplets throughout the year getting involved on campus and seeing them excel and find their place at Brandeis,” said Kobiella of her “grouplets,” or group of first years she leads during their Orientation.
But jumping from OL to CORE member is a big step, moving from executor to running the show. However, Kobiella knew that it was a challenge she was willing to accept and happy to take on. “At the end of Orientation last fall, one of the captains, who was a CORE member the first time I did orientation, said that the growth she has seen in me from my first time as an OL to now was astounding and incredible,” said Kobiella.
From this encouragement and the impact Kobiella felt she was making with incoming first-years, Kobiella realized she wanted to be more involved with the planning of Orientation and decided to apply for CORE. Kobiella said the experience “has helped me grow so much as a person. I’ve learned to be confident in myself and in my abilities as a leader.”
Kobiella’s personal contribution to Orientation this year is the inclusion of health and wellness programming for all incoming students. “I collected student stories about various health and wellness topics to make the program more engaging and relatable to a college student. I wanted to give the new students tips and advice on how to navigate their own health and wellness during this difficult transition period,” Kobiella said. There are various social events planned that will have relaxed environments while still promoting conversation, and of course, providing free food.
To all the new incoming first-years, Kobiella has a few things to say. “Expect to learn a lot about yourself in the next four years! The amount of growth you’ll experience is really incredible. The transition to college may feel scary, but take everything one day at a time, and you’ll have a great first year!”
Adrian Ashley ’20
Adrian Ashley ’20 is a chemistry major and another member of CORE. He became involved with Orientation in the fall of 2017 when he was an Orientation Leader (OL). Though he was only an OL for that semester, Ashley would like to work on Midyear Orientation next year, if possible.
Ashley is very passionate about not only making Orientation a welcoming experience, but also making Brandeis a welcoming community. Ashley wrote in an email to The Brandeis Hoot that he became involved with Orientation because he “really wanted to meet new people, put myself out there and help acclimate new students to this incredible campus.” Beyond that, his friends also encouraged him to become a part of the Orientation planning process.
The Orientation that Ashley experienced as a first-year also played a large role in his decision to become an OL and a member of CORE. From that experience, Ashley recalls “a bunch of blue shirts running and taking my stuff up to my room without me even asking, fantastic social events and really great student leaders who made me confident in Brandeis as my new home,” which inspired him to become more involved with Orientation.
Once Ashley became an OL and a member of CORE, he noted that while both positions had similar end goals, each position dealt with different aspects of Orientation directly. In his experience, CORE members address more major planning aspects of Orientation in a “behind-the-scenes” kind of way.
While CORE members are critical for the planning of Orientation and ensuring that everything runs smoothly, Ashley believes that OLs often are the people that “represent a real important part of those incoming students’ first week at Brandeis,” since they are able to be more one-on-one with their group members.
“We all want Orientation to be a success and we all want to make the incoming students feel like they are a part of this fantastic community we all love. We just do that in different capacities and in different ways,” Ashley said.
Ashley has high praise for everyone he has interacted with as a member of CORE. In regards to his fellow CORE members, he states that “it has been fantastic to see everyone else’s ideas take form and I am really proud of all of the work each of my team members put into making their incredible ideas come to life.”
He also worked with the Department of Orientation and the Department of Community Living (DCL) and told The Hoot that “everyone I worked with is just incredibly nice, genuine and dedicated to making sure every one of the new students has an incredible experience at Brandeis. The care and compassion that each staff member demonstrated on a daily basis really just made this job exceptional.”
Though he was surrounded by such wonderful coworkers, one of the most challenging aspects of planning Orientation for Ashley turned out to be finding a starting place for his ideas. To him, coming up with the bare bones of such a complex event seemed overwhelming at first. However, Ashley wrote that “once I got the idea going, the rest kind of just fell into place and the rest of the Orientation CORE team definitely helped encourage a lot of that creativity and idea brainstorming.”
Looking to the future, Ashley is “honestly just looking forward to meeting the new students and interacting with the Orientation Leaders…Everything is going to be amazing and I can’t wait to see how the new students like [the events].”
For the incoming first-years, Ashley has some words of advice. “College is a huge change and embrace every bit of it! College is an incredible opportunity to meet new people, try new things and embark on new challenges and adventures that can change your life. Try new classes, push yourself but not too hard and just have a fantastic time.”
Melanie Rush ’20
Melanie Rush ’20, a history and politics major, is serving as a member of the CORE Committee this year. This is her second year involved in Orientation, as she was an Orientation Leader (OL) the previous fall semester.
She first became involved with Orientation during her first year when she saw the fun that the OLs were having and the impact they had on the community. “I remember watching the Orientation Leaders having the time of their life when I was a first year, and it seemed like an incredible experience to give back to the Brandeis community while also having so much fun! So I applied to be an OL during my first year, and that’s how it all started,” wrote Rush in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.
Being a member of the CORE Committee as compared to being an OL involves a lot more organization and creativity. Rush explained that the members of CORE plan all of the informational and social events put on for the OLs once they arrive early to campus. They also interview and train the OLs before Orientation begins. Being a member of CORE gives those students the opportunity to shape the incoming class’s Brandeis experience; to both teach them and guide them but also give them the opportunities to make new friends, while having the passion of the OLs move that process forward.
“The responsibilities of CORE require meticulous consulting, budgeting and scheduling for everything that goes on during the week of Orientation, while being an Orientation Leader focuses on creating the best environment for the new students within their Orientation groups during Orientation itself,” wrote Rush to The Hoot. Both groups are essential to the smooth operation of Orientation.
Rush’s personal Orientation experience during her first year at Brandeis was “pretty average,” as she got along with the other students in her Orientation group and went to many of the social events. “The Orientation week itself allowed me to push myself to meet people outside of my assigned group, which was how I met some of my closest friends to this day. And my own Orientation Leaders were great and made me feel super comfortable,” said Rush.
For Rush, the most challenging part of being in the CORE Committee was taking their various “big picture visions” and finding a way to implement them down to the minute detail to make the events truly come to life. That also meant “making sure that every potential little thing is thought of and accounted for ahead of time.” Despite the intensive process that is planning Orientation for a group of over 800 students, Rush has also benefited from the experience both professionally and personally.
Rush’s favorite part about being on CORE so far has been to create “both personal and professional relationships with the other CORE members and the wonderful people within the department of Orientation.” She hopes to replicate these connections during orientation with the first-years, as she most looks forward to experiencing all of the social events.
“Each CORE member focuses on one particular event themselves, however as a group we have worked together to make them all perfect. Each social event serves its own purpose within Orientation, and the ability to watch new students connect through the environments that we have created for them will be very special,” wrote Rush.
For the incoming first-years, Rush believes that a great way to get used to campus is by creating those relationships. “…Try and introduce yourself to as many people as you can within the first few weeks. Everyone else is just as desperate to make friends as you, so most people will be excited to get to know you!”