Friday, September 26, 2008

RIT's Student Orientation Service (SOS)

From the fall of 1983 through the fall of 1987, I attended Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY. It was a good college experience - I got a great education, made a lot of friends and had a lot of great memories.

One of the big foundations of my time there was my involvement with the Student Orientation Service (SOS). This was a volunteer organization - about forty to fifty students - with two faculty advisors to coordinate the program. The reason SOS is back in my head today because I got an email from one of the faculty folks - Dawn - who was sort of the motherly figure for our group (Joe, then by default, served as the fatherly role for us students).

SOS worked through out the year to plan for three orientation weekends in the summer (two for freshmen, one for transfers) and one big orientation week in the fall at the start of the year. We'd have weekly meetings with our committees, Sunday night training sessions monthly as a whole group, various social events through out the year to keep us motivated (like the huge Poster Painting Party in the spring to paint all those posters we'd need for the programs and the Cabin Party in the winter where we'd go chill for the day, play games, and dance). At the end of the year, we'd have our semi-formal Fall Banquet to celebrate the work we had done for the year.

I first got bit by the SOS "bug" when I arrived in the summer of 1983 for my own freshmen orientation. Here they were - all these students in matching t-shirts and cool buttons pinned - ready to help answer questions, show us around and make the transition to a new college life easier. I knew immediately this is what I wanted to do!

Freshmen year (SOS 84) I was on the Operations and Scheduling Committee (chaired that year by Beth Charney). We coordinated the plans for things, and made sure reservations for places on campus for programs were set.

Sophomore year (SOS 85) I decided to try out for the Executive Board and be a committee chairmen myself. I made it in the group of 10 chosen and headed the Deaf Awareness Committee (RIT has an affiliation on campus with NTID - the National Technical Institute for the Deaf - so I took a crash course in sign language). My committee was responsible for programming on the diversity of the hearing/deaf culture on campus as well as for scheduling interpreters.

Junior year (SOS 86) it was back to the general committe (I don't recall at the moment whose committee I was on that year) and for my Senior year (SOS 87) I was in the general committee for most of the year but stepped up to the plate for the Fall program to help run our committee when our chairperson went off on a co-op assignment. During these years, I was also the editor of the SOS-BS, our monthly newsletter that covered what each committee was up to during the year in preparation for the programs as well as a little bit of insider social messages between members.

Some of my favorite things included: chaperoning the dances we had for the incoming students (I loved to dance then), hanging out with the parents in the Ritzskeller (to help ease their minds about sending their kids off to college), performing in the skits we did for the parents and kids (to show them what college life was and was not like), and, of course, move-in day when we helped folks unload their cars and get their stuff from parking lots to the buildings ("we gotta move these refrigerators...we gotta move these color TV's...").

On my wall, the SOS group pictures hang proudly. Beneath them are the souvenier mugs from each year on display. In 1987, I was awarded the Most Outstanding Committee Member for Summer Programs (the plaque hangs proudly on the wall too). My photo albums from my college years have a lot of pictures from SOS events and after-hours parties (when we'd unwind after a long day of orientating folks).

Some of my closest friends from college came were in SOS - folks I still keep touch with to this day.

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