As a three-time Aug-O leader, I think it’s pretty obvious that I support the first-year office and the role that Aug-O holds on our campus. First and foremost, the goal of August Orientation is to form connections between first year students and to provide each incoming student with a mentor (their leader). The goal has never been to just have fun or to engage in deep, thought-provoking conversations. The hope is that you will form some connections, surface level or not, with people that you can someday engage in that sort of interaction with.

Secondly, from my three years of experience, one of the most painfully difficult challenges of being an Aug-O leader is getting freshly inducted college students to share anything personal just a few days after they come to campus. The fact of the matter is that the minority of incoming college students are interested in sharing their life story with a group of strangers. Oftentimes, that is why an “awkward fifteen minute void” is filled with silly games like ninja. However, leaders do sometimes miss the ball in this department. Every year, I have some of my group members tell me that they wished they had known everyone in their group’s name. It breaks my heart that I didn’t accomplish it, but there is a lot of autonomy that goes into learning the names of your peers. At the end of the day, my job as an Aug-O leader is to make you all somewhat familiar with campus and each other. If someone in my group did not catch another peer’s name, I consider it their responsibility.

Finally, there’s one point that I’m going to blatantly disagree with: Placing people in groups based on interest. This is one of the most detrimental things you can do to a person’s college experience. Maybe at a school of 40,000 people that would make sense, but that would completely devalue Denison’s character. In addition to that, interests change. If I was placed in a group with only those in the theatre department (my main interest my first year), I would have never found a job I love with the football team, or become the Technical Director and hosted a weekly show on our campus radio station, 91.1 WDUB. The key to forming strong relationships and to growing as an individual is variation and diversity. Expose yourself to as many different backgrounds and topics as possible. Why limit yourself to just what you were interested in in high school?

College is a four-year opportunity to grow, learn and engage yourself. Whether you believe it or not, August Orientation is the first step you’re given into the world of Denison, and it opens a lot of windows. Yeah, you might think that re safety is a pretty universal concept, but that presentation in Swasey was someone else’s first experience of re education. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in college is assuming that everyone else understands things the same as you do. This is why having a simulation for a day in the life of a Denisonian just wouldn’t work.

The moral of my short story is simple: I don’t care if you spent your whole first month of college talking to your classmates about how much you hated Aug-O. At least you were talking to them. There were 43 student staff members that offered many hours of their time to generate the Aug-O experience this year. That’s a lot of people who are genuinely dedicated to first-year students. In order to more deeply understand what we go through during the month or so that we are dedicated to Orientation, have a conversation with a staff member. Or better yet, consider being an Aug-O leader when the time comes to apply!