It’s freshman move-in day. The ORU campus is flooded with cars full of bright-eyed students, nervous but happy parents and boxes of new dorm room decor. Student leaders are stationed throughout campus to greet, direct and assist new students all the way through the registration process. Thanks to a new ORU program known as “Eagle Teams,” it’s nearly impossible to go anywhere without seeing a smiling face and making a new acquaintance.
When the Academic Peer Advisor program, an on-campus student leadership organization that provided academic and social support to students, was brought to a close, ORU needed a new plan to help new students. Sharla Roche, Assistant Director of Career Services and Peer Coaching Programs, was put in charge of designing a new program that would take its place.
“Really my role was to get on my face before God and find out what his program was,” said Roche. “We want every student who walks onto our campus to feel valued.”
Roche’s plan included the implementation of Eagle Teams, a program that helps to bring new students into ORU’s culture, and keep them from being lost on campus as well as educate them about ORU’s mission to educate the whole person.
“I’m very thankful for the things that have gone before us, but I’m excited to see what God is doing,” said Roche.
Introduction to Whole Person Education (GEN 150) utilizes Eagle Teams as part of a one-credit-hour class required for all new students. The class meets twice a week, and is a combination of the original University Success course that was first made a requirement in 1993, the Whole Person Assessment class and the HPE 001 lab and lecture. Optional campus-wide Empowerment Series workshops will also be offered throughout the semester to teach students practical skills and help alleviate stress that comes with the new college atmosphere. The first workshop will cover on how to find and apply for scholarships.
“If it was not for that class we wouldn’t know some of those things, we’d probably have to find them out on our own,” said freshman Kaitlin Gibson.
Each Eagle Team will have one of 35 Peer Success Coaches to lead students both inside and outside of class. Their job is to answer questions, encourage students to get involved with campus activities, check in on them, remember their name and be a familiar, smiling face. They can often be spotted on campus leading students in weekly team “challenges” such as scavenger hunts.
“If you’re one of my students and you’re succeeding, I’m succeeding,” said Peer Success Coach Anna Mueller.
Roche’s vision for this new course is to create a culture of students helping one another.
“I can’t do what you can do, you can’t do what I can do,” said Roche. “Together we can do great things.”
Each Eagle Team will also choose one male and one female from the group to help lead their classmates when the Peer Success Coach isn’t there, in hopes that these students will become Success Coaches themselves. In a year, the freshmen who were wandering around trying to find classes in the maze of the Graduate Center will be the ones confidently showing new students where to go.