GREENWOOD — Lander University freshmen Jacob Withers and Audrey Matthews didn’t have to wait until the first day of classes to get a feel for the Lander experience.
This past June, the two newbies barely had a moment to rest during two rigorous days of Freshman Orientation — an annual summer event to acquaint all new students with the Lander community and to serve as a springboard for their success.
“I’ve been waiting for this,” said Matthews, who comes to Lander from Lexington, S.C. “I graduated early from high school early — I turn 17 this August — and I’m very excited to be starting college here at Lander, especially since I plan to major in Early Childhood Education.”
Withers, a native of North Augusta, S.C., added that the rigor of Orientation reinforced his decision to come to Lander.
“I came here on a soccer scholarship and to study business,” he said. “And my first day of Orientation got off to a cool start because even though it was hot outside during check-in at Centennial Hall, we got to wait in the shade.”
Withers and Matthews were among more than 850 freshmen to come through three orientation sessions during June and July.
Led by current Lander students who serve as group leaders, freshmen get to explore the campus, meet their professors, learn the offerings of the school library, the Writing Center, and the Academic Success Center — and engage in icebreaker sessions to meet their fellow freshmen.
If they have any energy left, they get to eat and navigate the dining hall.
“I have yet to receive a freshman that does not ask for a nap,” said sophomore group leader Anna Gray. “Activities are constantly going on — and when we aren’t in a session, I’m conducting an icebreaker to get them to open up and get to know each other.”
While Orientation is mandatory for all freshmen, the initial intent is to make sure they are as ready as possible for move-in day and the first day of classes.
“Freshman Orientation is the only opportunity for students to receive all of these individual sessions,” said Shelby Dominick Reed, director of Orientation Programs at Lander. “And behind the scenes, our student leaders are managing hundreds of students, each with individual circumstances.”
Gray, for example, is not just helping freshmen get off to a good start at college, she and other Lander orientation leaders are helping them make valuable connections that will pay off in the long run.
“I come from a Clemson family but I bleed blue and gold,” Gray said. “And my favorite part of being an Orientation Leader is finding a family in my other leaders.”
Dominick Reed added that interest in the sessions is growing — “The Office of Orientation had a 13 percent increase over last year’s Freshman Orientation participant numbers.”
“We’re doing our job if students learn the volume of information we share in two days – and then walk away believing it was all fun,” Dominick Reed said.
Judging from freshman Jackson Carter’s reaction to his two non-stop days, that kind of learning and fun promises to keep building in the next four years.
“When I visited the campus, I thought it had good academics, and liked the friendliness of everybody and the leaders,” said Carter, a native of Barnwell, S.C., and an intended Criminology major. “But the biggest thing in making me want to attend Lander was that it just feels like home.”