Interview with Cordy Love, Director of New Student Programs at Southern Illinois University

How has the orientation program at SIU changed since you've been a part of it?

I was a graduate of Southern Illinois University, for both of my degrees. As a graduate student I worked with this office, and have since gotten the opportunity to watch it grow. I got to be a part of our first year experience program, when we were in the infancy stages of orientation. 
When I was Assistant Director of New Student Programs at Eastern Illinois University, I was part of building their great 6-week transition program. It was created in response to a need to provide intentional programming for introducing incoming students to the university. When I came to Southern Illinois University in 2014, one of the first things I did was extend programming from one week to three weeks, with a goal of extending to six weeks. The Saluki Startup programming is about sharing school traditions and building unity among our incoming class. The Weeks of Welcome offers them an opportunity to branch out into greek life, sports, and other clubs they're interested in. We currently coordinate over 200 events and programs throughout the university's Weeks of Welcome. 
This year we were able to branch out and combine with other departments, including the Center for International Education. International students don’t come to campus until just a few days before classes start. They go through three days of programming where they intermingle with domestic students. Our office takes part in their orientation and the funding for their transition materials. We provide all of the resource materials that we give a domestic freshmen to international students. We've worked hard to iIntentionally hire staff that identify with the incoming international students to give them the highest level of support. 

How do you provide this robust programming on a budget?

Our office are supported on student fees, but when enrollment is low it can be challenging to provide good programming. Partnership and collaboration are they keys to overcoming this. In the past, we have split the cost of materials with other departments. For example, we need a lot of signage for directing parents and students around the university when they first arrive. The type of corrugated board or laminated sheet that we order can be reusable and shared across many different offices for different events. I’ll always pay for lamination instead of buying a one-time-use poster. We also cut down the printing materials by working with Guidebook to present our materials in electronic form. 
Another strategy is looking at how we manage our staff and student staff. We currently run about 15 orientation programs for an average of 250 students per program. We cut cost by reducing the number of staff on hand for smaller programs that don't require as many people. We also have a great intern plan. Having student coordinators as part of the planning process helps reduce our costs, and gives students an experience that they can apply in the classroom. 
Sponsorships have also been important for us. SIU is six hours away from Chicago. If I was a student, I might not know what to do around here even though most students live on campus for nine months out of the year. Sponsorships from local businesses, like local banks, help generate awareness and income for those companies. Depending on their level of sponsorship, we can charge them for different packages. Talking about this at the last regional conference. $5-6000. Work with other departments to cut a break on the printing cost if I’m promoting your special thing.Using your materials, utilizing them in the best way possible. 

What is the goal of your new student programming?

For us it’s really about making students feel like they have a family here. We make sure students feel that they are at home on campus. We assure concerned parents that students have a place to be safe here. We empower our students to learn early on about accountability and decision-making. I often say that your institution is going to help you however possible, but it's important that you are your best advocate. Our program has developed to tell our students that there’s responsibility that comes with independence.