Damien departs: Orientation Coordinator will be missed at UAF

Elika Roohi/Sun Star Reporter
Sept. 24, 2013

“New Student Orientation Director Damien Snook, works at his desk in his office.” Kailey Skinner/ Sun Star

There are 400 people in the Student Recreation Center. None of them know each other, all of them are nervous. And Orientation Coordinator Damien Snook and a small group of orientation leaders are responsible for making a positive experience happen for the entire incoming freshmen class.

Just imagine it, said Josh Hovis, the student organizations coordinator who has worked closely with Snook and New Student Orientation at UAF for several years.

Snook has been the orientation coordinator at UAF for three and a half years. He put in his two-week’s notice last week. His student worker, Alexandra Roberts, will take over organizing spring orientation, a much smaller affair than orientation in the fall, while the university looks for someone to take his place.

Snook went to graduate school for student affairs, with the idea that he’d end up in advising, admissions, orientation or something along those lines. While he was interning for the National Orientation Directors Association annual conference, a friend mentioned a job in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“One night, Joey, this guy from Arkansas, came up to me and was like, ‘Man, I got this former boss who keeps bugging me about this job,’” Snook said. “’It’s in Fairbanks, Alaska and it gets down to, like, 50 below and it’s cold and dark all the time and it sounds terrible.’”

“And I said, ‘No, that sounds awesome,’” Snook said.

He got the job.

When Snook showed up at UAF in April 2010, he had 25 orientation leaders and had to find 20 more. Last spring, he had 90 people apply for the same position.

Snook has worked on creating a culture around orientation at UAF, getting students and orientation leaders excited and invested in the program.

This year’s orientation was one of the best in terms of attendance; new students went to most of the events on their schedule. There were also more orientation leaders this fall than usual, which meant orientation could meet the demands of new students and their families.

Orientation is all about building bonds, Snook said.

“I’m not just their orientation leader. I’m one of these people’s friends,” said Walter DiSarro, a fisheries student who’s been an orientation leader for seven years.

DiSarro has seen three orientation coordinators come and go.

“Damien built on what his predecessors started. There was a time when these orientation leaders just came and did their thing and that was it,” DiSarro said.

Snook doesn’t just have orientation leaders sign up as volunteers for a one-time extracurricular. The whole process enriches everyone’s lives, new students and Orientation Leaders, DiSarro said.

In the future, Snook said he’d like to see the program expand so it’s not just a welcome week.

There is a lot of stuff to cram into a few days of orientation, including things like academic orientation and financial aid information. Right then, students are mostly interested in moving into their dorms and making new friends, Snook said.

Due to university budget cuts, the orientation program at UAF isn’t going to be expanding anytime soon. Snook likes building and expanding programs, so he’s decided to look for something new.

Snook will definitely be missed, said both Hovis and DiSarro.

“Whoever takes it upon themselves to replace him has some pretty big shoes to fill,” DiSarro said.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *