Jeff Marootian was an incoming GW freshman two years ago, but he remembers driving to orientation like it was yesterday.
“I was literally shaking,” he said. “I had no idea what to expect or who I’d meet. I was terrified.”
Today Marootian, a junior majoring in human services, is student director of Colonial Inauguration, GW’s lively orientation program which combines peer socialization, academic advising and an overall introduction to the University and its resources.
Four groups of students and parents attend CI during June, and another group will be oriented before classes start in August. Each of the 2,200 students who comprise GW’s largest freshman class ever participate in a session, and parents and siblings are also offered complete programs at each CI.
Marootian said he is thrilled to help direct the program that once made all the difference to his own GW experience.
“When I got to CI, it was just a matter of one person who really took the time to answer my questions that totally changed my outlook and calmed my fears,” he said. The person who helped Marootian was a member of the Colonial Cabinet, the group of student leaders who are the life-blood of CI.
Highly trained and bursting with school spirit, the elite group is selected every year from hundreds of applicants willing to spend their summer introducing nervous freshmen to higher learning. For fulfilling responsibilities ranging from coordinating social and academic activities to answering every question under the sun for inquisitive parents and new students, the cabinet members receive free room and board for the summer and a $2,000 stipend.
“This year’s cabinet is very diverse,” said Laura Todd, coordinator of new student programming. “In addition to their accomplishments and interesting backgrounds, they’ve been one of the most hard-working groups I’ve had the chance to work with.”
The work starts early. Throughout spring semester, the group meets for two hours a week to work on planning activities and writing the educational skits which will entertain and enlighten parents and kids on issues such as safe sex, credit card management, diversity and homophobia. As soon as classes end, the group moves to the same floor of Fulbright Hall and tackles morning to night classes in GW 101 for several weeks, learning from administrators and faculty.
The cabinet must be well-equipped to answer any question about the University or handle any emergency, explains Marootian, who organizes the cabinet along with partner Wendi Conti.
“The CI experience is indescribable,” said John Creedon, a sophomore cabinet member. “As much as I liked GW before, going through CI really psyches you up for the year and makes you so excited for school to begin again.”
Creedon said he was inspired to try out for CI after attending last year and enjoying a relaxed rapport with administrators and faculty. Their comfortable interaction with the students was one of the things that most impressed him, he said.
Todd, a GW alumnae and a former cabinet member herself, said the enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting the five CI sessions together each year is eased by a helpful faculty and administration that devote countless hours to executing CI and assisting the cabinet.
Several changes were put in place for CI this year. New students living at the Mount Vernon campus in the fall have the opportunity to stay there overnight at two of the CI sessions. Evening activities like Casino Night and the Recess comedy show will be accompanied by other amusements to discourage students from going to bars and clubs. And parents will be invited to a special administrator-parent panel with University experts on everything from academics to campus safety.
Courtney White, an incoming freshman from La Plata, Md. said her favorite part of CI was the student activities fair, where she even signed up to be George, GW’s hatchet-wielding mascot.
“The only thing I was worried about was meeting people,” White said. “But the cabinet was so helpful and the kids were great. I’m still a little nervous, but now I’m so excited.”