Starting this week, Syracuse University Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation J. Michael Haynie will host “SU Safe Weekly Roundup,” a series of weekly virtual update sessions to assist University community members in preparing for the Fall 2020 semester….
Syracuse Welcome Volunteer Shares Special Moments, Bits of Advice with New Students and Families
In her office, Pam Peter keeps a friendly note from a student’s mom she met during Syracuse Welcome as a special reminder.
Peter, assistant dean in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, had greeted the mom, her first-year student and their family as they arrived at Day Hall last year.
“The mom was just happy to be here. She was a little bit nervous, and I said to her what I often say to parents, ‘Don’t worry. We’ve got your daughter; she’s one of us,’” Peter says. “We spent quite a bit of time outside chatting, and a couple of times after that, when the mom came to campus, she would come to my office.”
One time the mom stopped by when Peter was out of her office. The mom left a note saying she was sorry she missed her, ending the message with a heart.
“I’ve got this note on my monitor, because every now and then I look at it and know that’s one of my families,” Peter says. “That’s what Syracuse Welcome is all about. It’s all about the connections.”
Joy and excitement
Peter has made many connections as a longtime Syracuse Welcome volunteer. As part of the University’s new student orientation program, faculty and staff join orientation leaders, the Goon Squad and the Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs to help greet new students and their families at their residence halls.
There is an energy and excitement—and joy—to these first few days when students arrive on campus, and, each year, Peter looks forward to being part of it and welcoming students and their families.
“I love the whole thing,” Peter says. “These are their first moments of adulthood. It’s full of possibilities. They are excited to be here, and their parents are excited to be here, but everyone is a little nervous.”
Some parents are looking for reassurance. “They need someone to tell them it’s going to be OK, and you’re there to say your student is now one of us, and it’s going to be OK,” Peter says.
Peter started her career at the University in residence life, in 2001, and assisted in coordinating some aspects of move-in as part of her role. When Syracuse Welcome was later developed as a new student orientation program and transitioned under the Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs, Peter began volunteering for the expanded welcoming programming, such as Home to the Dome, in which students gather at the Dome for an evening of activities and Orange pride.
Later, when organizers started what is now called Citrus in the City, Peter helped coordinate student busing downtown for the city event with performances and food. She even donned a costume for a few years at the Orange Blast event for new students. “I taught myself how to read palms, so I spent a couple of years reading palms of students,” she says.
Because of her experience in residence life, she also was asked to participate as a move-in captain, helping coordinate faculty and staff welcome volunteers at residence halls.
“You get tired by the end of day, but it’s so much fun,” Peter says. “The parents drive up, they hop out of the car, and they are like ‘we’re here,’ and you share their excitement.”
She often tells parents to email her if they need anything in the future. “Every now and then I get an email from a parent I met during Syracuse Welcome,” Peter says. “If I can’t help them directly, I will find someone to help them.”
Move-in can be very busy, and rain can cause some headaches, but “it moves very quickly,” Peter says, especially with the students of the Goon Squad. “They are amazing students who will spend a half a day moving the belongings of strangers into a residence hall, but they are happy to do it. They are welcoming and work hard,” she says.
Happy to be here
In preparation for a busy week, Peter makes sure to have her own work to-do list completed in the days before Syracuse Welcome to ensure she has everything done in advance, so she can take the time to be out and about on campus.
This year, Peter is also driving a beverage cart one afternoon at Sadler and Lawrinson halls, and then students and parents can see her emceeing a panel for parents. On Saturday, she’ll help gather students for the bus ride downtown for Citrus in the City.
“I look at those few days as the University’s finest moments, because we all come together to welcome them, and help the students and the parents. They are a part of who we are,” Peter says. “Everyone is happy to be here, and we all work together to make extraordinary events happen.”
Through her experience and time as a Syracuse Welcome volunteer, she’s happy to share a few bits of advice for students and families:
Get connected. Students should go to as many events as they can. It’s the student’s opportunity to get connected with others at the University and make friends.
Find your place. Students should attend the Student Involvement Fair. With hundreds of student organizations, there is something here for everyone. New students can find organizations related to their interests and join in with other students.
Ask for help if you need it. If students start to feel like they are struggling in class, don’t wait till the last minute to tell someone. Get help early; there are many people who can help.
Saying good-bye. Once the programs for parents have ended, parents will be encouraged to leave campus. It will be time for their students to be on their own so they can immerse themselves in campus life.