Mary Kate Shields, left, and Ava Pisauro
For most people, preparations for going back to school start during the summer. For Orientation student coordinators Ava Pisauro and Mary Kate Shields, however, preparations began back in February. Charged with organizing the entire Catholic University Orientation program, Pisauro, a junior accounting major, and Shields, a senior marketing major, have spent months planning every facet of the four-day program, including event scheduling, vendor bookings, giveaways, and app development. And they are happy to do it.
“This really is service work,” said Pisauro. “We’re thrilled to be in the thick of this, working happily with campus partners and our vendors. It’s been a collaborative effort done by all.”
Neither Pisauro nor Shields could have predicted their new roles upon first arrival at Catholic University. Pisauro remembers being very “unenthusiastic” about the University during her first year.
Still, she has fond memories of Orientation. She learned a lot during the informational sessions and had fun at the late-night events getting to know her future friends. Thanks in part to those experiences, she grew to love Catholic University more and more.
“When I saw my Orientation Advisors, something clicked in me and I said, ‘I want to do that,’ I wanted to give first-years the space and time and guidance to call Catholic home.”
“When I saw my Orientation Advisors, something clicked in me and I said, ‘I want to do that,’ I wanted to give first-years the space and time and guidance to call Catholic home,” she said.
As for Shields, she admits to having been “a nervous wreck” during her own Orientation.
“When I came in, I was super stressed,” she said. “I remember little bits of intentionality during Orientation where Orientation Advisors would walk with me to locations rather than point me in the right direction. I knew these students had been trained to do this, but it meant a lot to me and I wanted to be able to provide that for other students as well.”
Since getting involved in Orientation, both women feel as if they’ve gained life skills. They’ve had to work hard to select and train the Orientation staff members, to plan complicated events with contingency plans, and to answer countless questions from parents.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the job, both of them say, has been talking to incoming first-year students.
“I love talking to students who are nervous,” said Pisauro. “Sometimes I can help eliminate their stress by saying, ‘My parents didn’t come to Orientation either, let me help you.’”
“It’s fun being reminded that we’re not just staff members to them. We’re also peers,” said Shields.
Working on Orientation has also provided great insights for both women on their own talents and possible future careers. Pisauro is hoping to take her job experience to an accounting firm — she already has an internship lined up for next summer with Ernst & Young. Shields said she hopes to pursue graduate school and a career in higher education.
No matter what, both students are excited and proud about the Orientation experience and what they have done for their fellow students.
“I feel really blessed to have given back so much to the program that has given me so much,” said Shields. “It’s gonna feel really good at the end of this program to think, ‘We’ve done that and we’ve given that to an incoming class.’”