Golden Bear Orientation leaders, short-staffed by 500, worked ‘countless hours’ to accommodate 9,500 incoming students

Tiffany Chan/File

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About 500 orientation leaders — 500 short of what the campus originally sought — chaperoned 9,500 incoming students who arrived Aug. 15 for Golden Bear Orientation, or GBO.

This new student orientation, which replaced Cal Student Orientation, or CalSo, ended Tuesday, after a week of introductory presentations, planned excursions and campuswide social events for freshmen and junior transfers. Initially, New Student Services aimed to hire about 1,000 students to be Orientation Leaders, or OLs, but as the summer passed the number of OLs dwindled down to 526 due to “unforeseen circumstances,” according to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff.

“We are incredibly proud of all the work all our Orientation Leaders put into this orientation,” Ratliff said in an email. “They put countless hours of training and preparation into their role, and their dedication to serving the new students is deeply appreciated by the new students, our department, and the University.”

OLs endured an extensive training process that began in mid-May and continued early August. Throughout GBO, their daily duties consisted of a mandatory 8 a.m. leaders’ meeting and accompanying groups to any mandatory talks or outings scheduled for that day.

As a part of the job, OLs receive priority registration, free meals and leadership experience, but they were not paid. Most agree GBO could have been shortened by a few days, but many leaders did cite their GBO experience as a positive one.

“I wanted to be part of the incoming fresh first experience with Cal and to let them know there is so much to learn beyond the classes,” said Joseph Kim, campus sophomore and OL. “I want their first year to be as transformative and amazing as it was for me.”

Campus sophomore and OL Tiffany Chan said she was always interested in leadership duties and that, if given the chance, she would volunteer again. Froi Cervania, a campus senior and OL, who facilitated a group of junior transfers, said that he was more motivated to join GBO because he believed it was less time commitment than CalSO.

But others shared critiques about the program and suggestions for what could be changed in the next GBO. Campus junior and OL Jay Mantuhac said he believed having a packed schedule from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. “drove OLs and students to exhaustion,” which also affected the attendance rates of nonmandatory events. Gurbir Singh, an incoming freshman, agreed that a shorter GBO would benefit the students greatly by allotting time to explore the campus on their own.

Ratliff, however, assured that GBO organizers did their best to be flexible and that any leader who requested time off due to emergency situations were allowed to do so.

“Much went into providing the students with a shared community experience and getting them off to a fun and supportive start,” Ratliff said in his email. “Such a large and ambitious series of events will always have takeaways and lessons learned and we’ll continue to look for ways to build on what we learn and the excitement generated this year.”

Francesca Munsayac covers student life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.

Due to misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article stated Orientation Leadership meetings began at 8 a.m. In fact, they began at 7 a.m.

Due to misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article also stated Golden Bear Orientation trainings began in mid-May. In fact, they began in March.