Welcome Home: Bama Bound workers welcome UA's new studentsBy Heather Buchanan | 06/04/2015 8:36pm
In the uniform Koch described as “iconic,” she becomes a beacon for the nearly 8,500 future Alabama freshman who will attend a Bama Bound orientation session this summer.
“I didn’t really expect how much you would be ‘on,’ and what I mean by that is once you put on that polo and name tag, you are visible to everyone,” said Koch, a junior majoring in communication studies and public relations.
Koch is an Avanti, which is one of a few kinds of student orientation leaders who assist with summer orientations on The University of Alabama campus. In addition to the Avanti team, students serve as Peer Advisors and Parent Ambassadors during orientation.
“The Office of Orientation and The Office of First Year Experience and Parent Programs work jointly to plan and execute Bama Bound,” said Landon Waid, senior associate director of Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation. “The Avanti Team and Parent Ambassadors are the two primary student leader groups for Bama Bound. Several other campus partners assist by leading information sessions, presentations and hosting events and activities.”
According to The University of Alabama orientation website, “Avanti” is derived from the Italian word meaning “to move ahead.” Koch said these 48 students represent the diversity of the student body.
“We come from all parts of campus, whether that be coming from Greek life, ROTC, the Million Dollar Band, honor societies. We’re all really different and we work well together,” Koch said.
An Avanti’s work is not limited to the summer months. The Avanti team met every Thursday during the spring semester for training and attended the Southern Regional Orientation Workshop in at Murray State University in Kentucky in late March, Koch said. Summer orientation, or Bama Bound, is where the Avanti team puts its training into practice, hosting a total of 25 one- and two-day sessions before classes begin in August.
“We each have our own area that we’re posted at in the morning [for check-in], whether it be parking garage duty, welcoming families, and mainly just being visible to incoming students and their parents,” Koch said.
The schedule for a typical orientation session includes presentations by several on-campus offices, including housing, transportation and financial aid, as well as visits to their specific college for an academic presentation. The students also meet with Avantis in small groups divided by major so they can gear the presentations to their specific needs. In these groups, Avantis teach students about things like the difference between Dining Dollars and Bama Cash and how to use Degree Works. In addition, students attending two-day orientations get to enjoy free time at the Rec Center during an event called Rexpo.
While students learn the basics of the University of Alabama from the Avantis, the process of finalizing their first semester course schedule comes with the help of professional and peer advisors. Ivy Weaver, a junior majoring in biology, is one of 11 Peer Advisors this summer.
“We’re given very thorough training on the curriculum, the core, and knowledge on courses at UA in general,” Weaver said. “We don’t have to know every single thing about every course, but we should be able to cover the surface of each course.”
While the Avantis are present for most parts of Bama Bound, Peer Advisors only participate in the portions of orientation called “College Visits.” These two sessions allow students to consider their options for fall courses with the help of advisors and their parents before officially registering.
“College Visit one is when the parents and the students will come into Russell Hall and they’ll watch the orientation video, they’ll meet the professional advisors, and it’s a chance to brainstorm for some classes,” Weaver said. “They’re given the course planning sheet and along with their parents and the Peer Advisors and the Avanti’s and the professional advisors, they map out possible classes.”
During the second College Visit, students meet advisors in Lloyd Hall without their parents to actually register for courses.
“Parents aren’t allowed in the lab because we don’t want to have that influence over the students when they’re making their final decision on classes,” Weaver said.
Like the Avanti team, the Peer Advisor team is a diverse group from many majors. Weaver said this diversity allows them to help as many students as possible pick their best potential schedule.
Students aren’t the only attendees of Bama Bound; many students bring their parents, and the University has a special team of student orientation leaders to walk them through the process.
Parent Ambassadors offer a similar orientation experience to parents as their students are receiving from the Avantis. Shelby Lynne Shaw, a senior majoring in communciation studies, is serving as a Parent Ambassador for the first time this summer.
“[After the introduction] we direct parents to interest sessions with small groups made up of PAs as well as lead college visits where parents can meet with their student’s college advisors and ask questions specific to their major,” Shaw said. “After this, there are more interest sessions and a dinner followed by a coffee talk. On a long day, PAs can be there up to 14 hours, which can be an incredibly rewarding experience.”
Shaw said she participates in a few activities that allow her to talk one-on-one with parents and address any questions or concerns they may have.
“The most rewarding part of the job so far has been the genuine ‘thank you’ I get from parents I have really bonded with,” Shaw said. “It always puts a huge smile on my face to make those connections and I love being able to share my own experiences here at the Capstone.”
Koch said she has also felt the students’ level of gratitude towards her kindness. A student messaged her on Twitter during one session, nervous about the registration process and getting into the classes he wanted. Koch said she spent a few hours talking to him about registration to calm his nerves.
“The next day, he got all the classes he needed without a problem and thanked me many times for all of my help,” Koch said. “Something that seemed so simple--explaining a process of registration--made a huge difference to this one student.”
Waid said all these student orientation leaders come together during orientation to help provide the best possible introduction to the University of Alabama.
“Our goal is for each student to be connected in some fashion when he or she leaves campus,” Waid said. “It may be to campus, another student, an Avanti, an academic program or an organization. When a student leaves Bama Bound, we hope he or she is prepared and excited to come back in August and begin his or her career at the Capstone.”