Going to college can be a daunting experience, but for the approximately 3,200 first-year and transfer students coming to RIT this year, Shawna Lusk and her staff make the move easier.
“Our goal is to provide an effective message of transition for new students and their families,” said Lusk, director of RIT’s Center for Orientation and Transition. “We let them know what they need to start the year successfully, that they are connected to the university and that they belong here.”
A native of Madison, Wis., Lusk worked in a similar position at Purdue University before coming to RIT.
“I love the energy that this group brings,” she said. “The students are really excited to be here, they love their university and we want to provide the experience that shows them that this is their home.”
Prior to the five-day orientation week each August, 180 current RIT students spend a week training to become orientation leaders and will work with groups of 15-18 incoming students.
During orientation week, Lusk and her team – including three full-time employees and five students —ensure new students and their parents are prepared for their college experience.
“The new students want to know things as simple as finding where their classrooms are located, where to go if they get sick, some get homesick and miss their family or pets and friends from home, and the basics: how to navigate the dining halls and how to get involved in a club or organization,” she said. Students also are educated about Title IX—which includes sexual discrimination and harassment—and how to make good choices.
But the work doesn’t end with orientation. Lusk and her team are busy year-round, planning events for Student Affairs, working with representatives from each of RIT’s colleges, and creating publications, such as a welcome guide for students and parents and DiscoveRIT.
“We’re kind of the welcome mat for the university, but we depend on our university partners to help us and move that forward,” Lusk said.
Have the students’ needs changed over the years?
“New students today are less inclined to involve their parents in decision making or even informing them about things,” she said. “But they still have the same needs. That really hasn’t changed.”
Job title: Director of The Center for Orientation and Transition
Years at RIT: 9
What I like best about working at RIT: Our students. They’re unique and their interests and abilities are really different than other places I have worked.
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