In the Shoes of a Brand-New Patriot at Freshman Orientation

Posted: August 8, 2011 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: August 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm

By Lea Lubag

Patriot Leaders help incoming freshmen get to know each other through active ice-breakers. Photo by Evan Cantwell

From top dog to underdog, the cycle starts over as more than 2,500 high school graduates are initiated into their new status as freshmen at Mason this year.

“Orientation is designed to provide students with a welcoming environment that gives them a taste of what they’ll experience in college, academically and socially,” explains Alicia Hooper, a rising senior majoring in government who works in the Office of Orientation and Family Programs and Services.

During the summer, new students undergo a two-day process teaching them the ropes of what it means to be a Patriot and how to transition into college life.

Day 1: Meet Your Patriot Leaders

Decked in green shirts and khaki pants, Patriot Leaders serve as role models for freshmen by answering questions, leading small group activities and discussions, and promoting Mason spirit through their friendly enthusiasm.

Patriot Leader Canesha Swift says that “easing everyone’s worries” is her favorite part of the job. The rising sophomore and math major jokes, “I like to see everyone high-strung at first, and then by the end of it they look like a load has been lifted from them.”

On the first day of orientation, Patriot Leaders greet freshmen at the parking lot for check-in. Once registered, new students and their families enjoy a buffet-style breakfast in the lobby of the Center for the Arts, where they also have an opportunity to talk with folks from academic offices, parking services, the bookstore, off-campus programs and ROTC.

Next, freshmen and their families meet in the Concert Hall for Patriot Welcome. Patriot Leaders come onstage in pairs and introduce each other through song. Once the leaders announce their group numbers, freshmen leave their parents and join their small groups, where they participate in ice-breaker games and spend time getting to know each other.

“I really liked the small group meetings. It was fewer people so it was easier to interact with other freshmen,” says Jesus Hernandez, a rising freshman who plans to major in civil engineering.

For lunch, new Patriots have their first on-campus dining experience at the Southside dining facility. Rising freshman Omar Farooq comments, “I wasn’t expecting college food to be that good!”

Wearing their new Patriot Pride T-shirts, the Class of 2015 has a photo taken at the George Mason statue. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Then it’s time to buckle down to business: Freshmen have their Mason ID photo taken and then meet with their academic schools and colleges. Their respective deans provide important information on how to succeed at Mason, and the students can get to know other classmates interested in their major.

The highlight of the afternoon is “Patriot Leaders Live,” an hour of humorous skits demonstrating what it’s like to be a Mason student. Patriot Leaders act out scenarios such as helping out a fellow Patriot, making new friends, taking pride in diversity and dealing with a difficult roommate.

Both Farooq and Hernandez agree that the skits were “really well-done and funny, and gave a lot of good information, too.”

Afterward, freshmen attend information sessions about dining services, commuting and on-campus dorm life before sitting down to a barbeque dinner served by faculty and staff. At the end of a long first day of orientation, students enjoy live music, ice cream and socializing.

Day 2: Getting into the Mason Spirit

Sleepy-eyed new Patriots convene inside the Concert Hall after breakfast for an energizing show titled G…M…U…What! by their Patriot Leaders.

Signing the class board is a ritual that reminds freshmen of their ultimate goal. Photo by Evan Cantwell

During G…M…U…What! freshmen enjoy live singing and dance performances, guest appearances from their student body president and members of the men’s basketball team. While learning the Mason song, the fight song and other essential facts about Mason, some lucky students win free T-shirts and prizes.

Hernandez says he found the Patriot Leaders’ dance rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to be especially impressive and entertaining.

Students recess into another small group session, and then walk over as a group to the George Mason statue. There, freshmen sign their names on the Class of 2015 board and receive an official Mason tee to don for their group photo with George.

Freshmen have a final small group session before being set free to attend optional meetings about clubs and organizations within the Mason community. Afterward, they can take the math placement test if needed and grab lunch before registering for fall classes.

While Farooq says he had a great experience at orientation, he admits that at first he was “kind of nervous to meet all the new kids at Mason and didn’t really know what to expect.”

But by the end of the two days, new students are successfully initiated into the Mason family. The next time the freshmen come to campus they will be full-fledged Patriots ready to make Mason their new home.

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