Campus Life

New Student Orientation leaders sought for summer 2021

Application deadline extended to Dec. 18

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the new Dec. 18 deadline to apply to be an OTeam leader.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State is looking for the next group of undergraduates that will lead first-year students through New Student Orientation in summer 2021.

Instructions for applying can be found here, and students have until Dec. 18 to apply.

Known as the "OTeam," New Student Orientation Leaders are a critical part of the success of first-year students entering Penn State. NSO is where students meet their peers, faculty and staff and start to develop their curricular and co-curricular goals while becoming familiar with their campus and resources.

Before they’re issued the signature pink polo that OTeam leaders wear, aspiring OTeamers must complete training through a three-credit course during the spring semester. They must also be current full-time Penn State undergraduates who plan to be enrolled in fall 2021, will have earned at least 24 total credits by the end of the spring 2021 semester, and have maintained at least a 2.5 GPA. Because of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, this position may be in-person, remote or a combination of the two. The position is paid.

There are several information sessions scheduled for interested students; details can be found here. In addition to the credit-bearing course, students must complete two all-day retreats in the spring semester. They must also be available to work NSO beginning Monday, May 17, through Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021. Morning, late evening and weekend hours may be required. Due to the high demands of the position, students also cannot enroll in any synchronous summer courses or hold another on-campus job.

Summer 2020 was busy for the Student Orientation and Transition Programs staff and the OTeam leading New Student Orientation programs. States in the U.S. were still at various levels of lockdown just weeks before NSO was set to start.

Katie Motycki, a senior associate director at SOTP, said she and her colleagues worked hard during the late spring and early summer to move all of the programming online. While SOTP is headquartered at the University Park campus and usually only oversees NSO there, the pivot to remote instruction required that they collaboratively lead orientation programming for the entire University. In total, they oriented about 17,000 students. This was equivalent to about 1,500 students per program, a number that SOTP would typically host in a week during in-person NSO.

“The start of orientation leader recruitment is the event that really kicks-off our planning for NSO,” Motycki said. “It’s an exciting time because we are able to meet so many students who are interested in learning more about welcoming the next generation of Penn State students — first-years through seniors who want to give back to the University through this work. I encourage anyone who is interested to attend an info session to learn more and to submit an application. This is a fun and rewarding summer job!”

Star Lawson was on the OTeam in summer 2020, and said that while remote orientation was challenging, she still felt she made real connections and developed personal skills. Lawson is a sophomore from West Orange, New Jersey, and is pursuing a biobehavioral health major and African American studies minor.

Although the students working together through the orientation training in the spring were closely bonded, soon Lawson also got to know people from all over the state.

“It was a refreshing experience to meet all of these people, amazing people, that we have created actual bonds with,” Lawson said. “We have connections all over now instead of just here at University Park.”

Lawson said that to be on the OTeam, members must be prepared to engage incoming students in a way that will help them retain the information they are given; open up and forge connections with others; and enjoy themselves along the way. She recalled her sessions with international students, who were entering college during a time made more uncertain by the pandemic and political events. Many were worried about their language skills and Lawson said she did her best to make them feel confident and welcomed.

Star Lawson Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

“It’s such a rewarding job — knowing that you're able to help these people,” she said. “You are the key to them starting their Penn State experience. You know, they go through you first and you're their first impression of who they might meet.”

To be on the OTeam, Lawson emphasized, one must also be open and honest to earn students’ trust. After sessions, she would take to social media to answer student questions as best she could and be honest about her own experiences. This also meant talking about her experience as a woman of color, she said.

It’s probably not a surprise that Lawson said she had a positive NSO experience when she entered Penn State as a first-year student.

“I tried to make these students love Penn State as much as I was able to learn how to love it, especially throughout my own orientation.”

Lawson said she plans to join the OTeam again for summer 2021.

Student Orientation and Transition Programs is part of Penn State Student Affairs and the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Last Updated December 08, 2020