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Office of Orientation Welcomes Families to Campus

College is a big step in a young person's development, and it's natural to expect parents to always approach it with some trepidation. In most cases, students are truly on their own. They aren't just out of the house, sometimes they're in a whole other state. There are concerns: time management, money management, safety, social interaction – it goes on and on.


LSU's Spring Invitational offers an opportunity for many students to learn about LSU's beautiful campus.



The LSU Ambassadors help to welcome new students and their families with a variety of activities, skits and other presentations.



Future students greet their future classmates.



LSU's Parent Orientation Leaders also interacted with the family members of Spring Invitational visitors at various family themed events during the orientation period.



LSU's Spring Invitational POLs (front row, left to right): Arenn Martin, Kristen Carroll, Alaina Jacob Reed, Lesli Roussel, Caitlin Jacob and Annu Dixit. (back row): Brandon Berrio, Eric Garcia, Taylor Heinen, Chris Weimer, Brandon Guillory, Curtis Elmore III and Beau McMillan.
Jim Zietz, Eddy Perez/University Relations

LSU's Office of Orientation has taken steps to work with parents during this time with the development of Parent Orientation Leaders, or POLs – university students that interact with parents and the future students in order to help both prepare for the coming school year.

"The Parent Orientation Leaders were established in 2009, and they have made a tremendous impact on LSU Parent & Family programs and the Family Orientation program over the last few years," said Aimee
Frierson
, assistant director of Parent & Family Programs in the Office of Orientation. "This fourth team of POLs is by far the largest and most diverse team in the history of the program and we are very proud to have such a variety of student leaders to serve our incoming LSU families. These leaders participated in over 30 hours of training this spring and were more than prepared for their first orientation of the season, Spring Invitational. Their energy, enthusiasm and LSU spirit was apparent and their knowledge of university life and campus resources was a real asset for the 800 family members attending Spring Invitational."

Thirteen students were selected in the spring to serve on the 2012 Parent Orientation Leader team, all of whom are members of the LSU Ambassadors. Alaina Jacob Reed, a senior from LaPlace, who graduated last month, is serving as this year's Head Parent Orientation Leader. She worked with Frierson to select the current team and knows how these student leaders have become one of the most useful aspects of LSU's Family Orientation.

"It's really amazing helping the parents through this transition," she said. "They are so grateful and really thank you for everything."

Roughly 22 percent of the students that come to LSU's Spring Invitational are from other states, which can bring increased anxiety for the parents.

"They're all so friendly, and you could really see that they were well-versed and knew what they were talking about," said James Suderman of Niceville, Fla., whose daughter, Emily, will arrive at LSU in the fall to enroll in chemical engineering. "It was great, and very reassuring, for us to get that student perspective."

"It certainly helps you feel secure hearing from people here and how proud they are of their choice," added Gordon Summers, who will be sending daughter Annette to LSU all the way from Dublin, Calif.

POL Taylor Heinen was particularly equipped to help with out-of-state students and parents, as he himself came to LSU from San Jose, Calif.

"That was one of the reasons I signed up," said the sophomore kinesiology major. "I think when I first got out here my parents were very worried, but over time they learned to kind of let me be on my own and that's actually helped our relationship. They see me now as more of an adult."

The POLs maintained a constant presence at Spring Invitational starting with Check-In and giving parents a virtual tour during the official welcome, to promoting the LSU Family Association, guiding parents on campus, serving on panels and leading presentations such as "Commuter Student Success." The Parent Orientation Leaders served as the main resource for parents at Spring Invitational and were always present to answer questions and ease concerns.

Kathy Bell, a Lafayette native whose son Andrew is enrolling, said that the student group provided a "familiar face" at the various functions, and somebody to both reinforce what the parents and students learned, as well as answer new questions.

"It's so important for a parent to learn all this stuff because teenagers don't always know how to ask the right questions in these situations," Bell said.

Beth Zimanski, the mother of Molly, who will be coming to LSU from Mandeville, noted that she was leaving with answers to every question she had, and felt that coming for the orientation sessions would be a valuable tool for the parents of any student.

"We keep getting new information, and there's so much that it could be overwhelming," she said. "But the students do such a great job of explaining it and making it digestible."

POL Lesli Roussel, of Metairie, said that some of the most frequent questions involved things like campus jobs and residence halls.

"The kids at these events tend to be a little timid," she said. "Having the parents here, you get more questions and more questions that the students don't think to ask. The parents want the long answer too – the detailed explanation – because if it comes up again they want to be able to reinforce things for the students."

"Everything was so professional," said parent Gina Amato of Covington, who will be sending her daughter, Whitney, to LSU in the fall. "It was just fantastic to come here and make such a big campus feel a little smaller, both for myself and my daughter."

LSU Parent & Family Programs, in the Office of Orientation, is located within the Division of Student Life & Enrollment. Through orientation programs, campus events, and ongoing outreach and education, Parent & Family Programs fosters the connection for the families of current students to the university community. Supportive family structures enhance a student's ability to develop and facilitate a healthy transition into the university community and Parent & Family Programs seeks to foster a strong relationship with families through collaboration with constituents across campus. For more information, visit www.family.lsu.edu.