Throughout the long summer days of July and August, the bustle of campus life at St. John’s University slightly recedes, only to be replaced by a different, yet equally enthusiastic, activity—new student orientation.
There are familiar sights each year during orientation sessions held on the Queens and Staten Island, NY, campuses. Early each morning, orientation leaders gear up for another day of promoting the many virtues and opportunities of campus life. Soon, incoming first-year students arrive, some shyly and some boldly, to begin their St. John’s journey. This year, more than 3,200 students have enrolled at St. John’s, with more than 2,500 from New York State. Other well represented states include: Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts, and Texas.
Sport Management major Christopher Quinones of New York City came to St. John’s to follow in his parents’ footsteps. “Both of them are alumni, and the sense of welcome that I’ve received so far has been awesome. They were right about how much I would enjoy it here.”
As she enjoyed a campus tour, Oluwakemi Asekun, a native of Nigeria and a Criminal Justice major, noted that she could envision herself spending a great deal of time on campus, especially at the D’Angelo Center, where incoming first-year students registered for the day’s activities. “It’s such a warm and inviting space, and looks like a great place to relax, study, or meet new people.”
Risk Management and Insurance major Elizabeth Kogan, from Fresh Meadows, New York, was impressed by the friendliness and enthusiasm of the orientation leaders. “I like what I see so far. I feel like I made the right choice.”
Samuel Baah, Associate Director of Orientation and New Student Experience, said his role as an administrator is to facilitate a successful orientation experience. “Our student orientation leaders are the hands and feet of this program,” he stressed. “They are the first faces the new students see. They are the backbone of the program. They make sure everything goes well logistically and practically.”
Mr. Baah added that he loves his role because it allows him to build excitement for the upcoming academic year. “I’m really the back-end support that allows the students to take ownership of the program.”
During the day-long session, incoming first-year students enjoy a campus tour and ice breakers with their fellow students and orientation leaders. They attend presentations from the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Campus Ministry, University Career Services, and the Freshman Center.
The enthusiasm of orientation leaders is palpable, and each had different reasons for participating. John Ortiz, a Pharmacy major from Jersey City, NJ, said he wanted to emulate his orientation leader, who befriended him during the orientation process and is still a presence in his life.
“For me, it was the lack of an in-person orientation that motivated me to do this,” noted Jonathan Wright, a Legal Studies major and native of West Hempstead, NY, who arrived at St. John’s at the height of the pandemic. “I want to be a mentor to incoming first-year students and continue to be a resource for them throughout the year. They may feel more comfortable with a peer.”
Abdullah Al-Bayati, a Computer Science major from Baghdad, Iraq, said, “For me, it’s about reassurance. It’s our job to show them what they could achieve here.”
“St. John’s really supports the idea of diversity and inclusion, and being culturally relevant,” observed Jada McClary, a Childhood Education major from Brooklyn, NY. “I would like to pay that forward and be an image of representation for students of color. My orientation leaders really impacted me as well. They were my introduction to St. John’s and made me feel at home. I wanted to give that back to our incoming students.”