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Student Orientation Assistants build lasting connections with freshman class

2022 Student Orientation AssistantsAs one of the largest freshmen classes in the history of Tennessee Tech University settles into their course schedules and adjusts to life on campus, another group of students who spent the summer greeting, preparing, and encouraging new students hopes to see some of their love for the university reflected in the first experiences new students have on campus this fall.

“I would have to say my favorite moments were whenever I got to help a student and see them light up or get excited about coming to campus,” said Kensea Skelton, an education major from Carthage, Tennessee who worked as a student orientation assistant (SOA) during the summer. “I love this university, so I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing students get excited about their schedules, meeting friends or falling in love with a club or part of campus.”

SOAs work through the summer at the university’s Summer Orientation and Registration (SOAR) where incoming students prepare for their first semesters at Tech. Aside from the necessary tasks of selecting courses and finalizing registration, the students also connect with the SOAs who lead sessions with through the lens of a student living the experiences that await new students.

“I also loved getting to see lots of students from SOAR and classmates at the mix and mingle walking around and getting involved with student activities and organizations,” Skelton said.

The experiences students have at SOAR stick with them. That’s something Skelton know first hand as well.

“I wanted to be an SOA because of the SOA’s and the amazing experience from my SOAR session. I loved how close the SOA’s were with each other, how much they loved Tech and having fun, and how welcoming they were,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of a group like that and have the opportunity to show incoming students how amazing this university truly is!”

For student Lucy Bridges, an education major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, this summer was her second working as an SOA.

“I wanted to be an SOA to get more involved on campus and experience Tech in a more meaningful way,” Bridges said. “I had heard great things about it and I really liked my SOA, so I knew it would be a good fit for me. I loved it so much, I came back for a second summer!”

Both Skelton and Bridges have the same advice for new students at Tech: Get involved!

“Everyone on campus has been so friendly and kind,” said Skelton. “My freshmen year, I joined a few clubs, but I still didn't feel like I had fully connected to student activities on campus. Being an SOA this summer, I have met so many people, made new friends, and made so many connections through the university. 

“My biggest advice to freshmen or incoming students would probably be to not be afraid to put yourself out there, and sometimes going out of your comfort zone or being a little uncomfortable can be a good thing,” she said.

Bridges agrees.

“I wish I had known how many resources there are on campus,” Bridges said. “There are so many places to get involved, get help, or just to wind down that I didn't know about until this job. There is truly something for everyone!”

As freshmen settle in and find their place on campus, they don’t have to look far to find a friendly face. The SOAs they met over the summer helped them with guided tours the first week of classes and Skelton and Bridges both say they are happy to see students they met this summer on campus and will jump in to help them any time.