Wow! It’s been a week full of so much purple, gold and duke dog pride. While we are pleased to kick off the year with a successful first day of school, one of our sisters has been unwinding from a crazy yet rewarding summer as an OPA. Here is Chelsea’s story about her role with JMU, welcoming the class of 2016 and spreading some JMU spirit.
Name: Chelsea Coffman
Major: Public Relations
Minor: Music Industry & Anthropology
Hometown: Springfield, VA
My experience as an OPA has been amazing to say the least! It is almost impossible for me to put into words what my role as an OPA has been like and the effect it has had on me. To start, OPA stands for Orientation Peer Adviser. I decided to apply for the position after my previous positive experiences with Orientation as a first year student in 2010, and then as a FROG in 2011. I was selected as one of 28 OPAs to be on the 2012 team. Starting in November, I went through an application process which involved a paper application, a group interview, and an individual interview before finding out I got the position in January. Once we were chosen, we went on a team retreat to get to know each other for the first time.
Throughout the spring we had the responsibility of overseeing and selecting 280 FROGS (First yeaR Orientation Guides) from a pool of almost 700 applicants. We also were all enrolled in a leadership class to discover the importance of how our role could effect so many incoming students. The main thing I was excited for, however, was Summer Springboard! This is our day long orientation program over the summer where incoming students come for the last time before move-in to meet each other, learn more about JMU, and select their classes for the Fall. There were 15 different Summer Springboard days, and as an OPA, I was assigned a group of students to guide around each day, answer their questions, and get to know them. After five weeks of Springboard, and I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. First year students have so much excitement, and have the opportunity of blazing whatever path they want at JMU. Getting to know their stories, where they came from, and what their hopes for their futures are was so interesting, and each day brought new hopes with a new group of students. I also got to interact with parents and families, who also had awesome insights and stories to share.
My job as an OPA has not felt like a “job” whatsoever. I feel blessed to be given this opportunity to have an impact on an incoming class, as well as give back to the university that has given me so much. Being a part of the O-Team has allowed me to make connections with so many people on campus, including staff in Administration, Judicial Affairs, Dining Services, Student Wellness and Outreach, and the list goes on. I’ve been able to learn so much about the outstanding people who help our campus to operate smoothly. I’ve also gotten to make connections with students from all years, including alumni, and been able to meet students in new organizations I’m not involved in. All in all, being an OPA has expanded my network more than I ever imagined.
My last responsibility as an OPA is to head back to JMU on August 15th to prep for the arrival and training of the FROGs on August 18th! Once we train them, they are given groups of first years to guide through 1787 Orientation and beyond, and we take more of a backseat supporting role. I am beyond excited to work with the FROGs and see all that their capable of. I know we are going to make this an amazing welcoming experience for the Class of 2016, and although my OPA experience will be over after that, I hope that I have made a lasting impact on first years, the O-Team, and JMU.
Chelsea is the perfect person for this role and we are so glad she had an amazing summer welcoming the freshman class. We all remember the fun-filled week of 1787 Orientation and it wasn’t possible without the OPAs. Thanks for all of your hard work Chelsea and the 2012 Orientation Peer Advisors! We are just as excited and ready to make the class of 2016 feel right at home.