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The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Behind the Curtain: How Lead Links Craft a Welcoming Orientation Experience for First-Years

Behind the Curtain: How Lead Links Craft a Welcoming Orientation Experience for First-Years
Mehek Singh

Imagine this: A visibly nervous first-year student sitting in the front seat of a loaded-up SUV drives down Broad Street. Questions and uncertainties that once swirled in the mind of the first-year are quickly replaced by shouting, honking and what sounds like a major kitchen disaster. Colgate University’s Link Staff is on the front lines of move-in day, making sure no one takes themselves too seriously and directing parents and students to the right path. 

Links wear many hats, but fundamentally, “[the] job is to be both a peer and an authority for first-years on campus,” said senior and Lead Link Kasey Wilner. 

Link Staff employs people who have genuinely fallen in love with the many faces of Colgate, including senior Max Rubinstein, another Lead Link. 

“The Link Staff includes people from all sorts of clubs, fraternities, sororities, and sports teams. It’s honestly very inspiring to be around such a diverse group who is strongly united by their love for Colgate,” Rubinstein said. 

If Links are the legs of the Colgate orientation machine, the brain is an elite group of thoroughly vetted Lead Links whose responsibilities are numerous. The small group of eight Lead Links is responsible for putting the multifaceted Link Staff in a position to create well-adjusted first-year students.

“[Our job] is to oversee Link Staff selection, coordinate activities for first-years, and solve problems as they come,” Lead Link and senior Eric Barber explained.

It was clear from the start that it wasn’t going to be an easy orientation for the Lead Links, as Kristin Cothran, the associate dean who recruited the Lead Link Staff and had run orientation for the past few years, unexpectedly left Colgate. The Lead Links were faced with more responsibility and less guidance, but the group remained resolute. 

“We were kind of starting from ground zero,” Barber explained. “We thought that we would be receiving the training on orientation but it turns out, we were the ones the school turned to.”

In the face of this challenge, the link staff leaned on their diversity to solve their new problems. 

“We’re all bringing different approaches to our role and that’s the cool part. It still works,” Barber said. 

The Lead Links spent more than 100 hours maximizing logistics, organizing training, and selecting Link Staff for the 2023 New Student Orientation. The Lead Links running orientation have been organizing the event for almost a full year — the amount of time required to set up first-years for success.

“Many people don’t realize that we started preparing in the fall of last year,” Wilner explained.

That kind of effort doesn’t manifest without sufficient purpose — for these seniors, orientation just meant more. All eight Lead Links are members of the Class of 2024, who infamously started their Colgate careers behind a laptop camera. Three years ago, orientation all occurred on a screen. The isolation of their first year at Colgate was the antithesis of what the Lead Links planned for New Student Orientation. COVID-19 had a profound impact on the way many current seniors experienced Colgate. Further, it helped them establish a sense of gratitude for the un-quarantined and unmasked Colgate.

“Since we didn’t have our first-year orientation, it became so much more special for us to give this experience to the first-years,” Rubinstein said. “It’s so special to share what Colgate is really like to new people.”

First impressions are critical for putting anxious first-years at ease. The Lead Links of New Student Orientation 2023 found strength in their differences and were able to create a successful orientation experience for the class of 2027, despite the obstacles along the way. Driven by the desolation of their first-year experience and inspired by the best sides of Colgate, the Lead Links persevered through a year’s worth of uncertainty and problem-solving. 

“Colgate is a great place to find community and meet people. We want to be the people that get you started,” Wilner said.

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About the Contributor
Mehek Singh, Special Projects Manager
Mehek Singh is a senior from Baltimore, MD concentrating in international relations and minoring in global public and environmental health. She has previously served as an Assistant News Editor and staff writer for the News section. On campus, Mehek is a peer consultant in the Writing and Speaking Center, and is also involved in Class Council, Link Staff, and the Benton Scholars.

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