Like every student-run organization/leadership position, much of coordinating is thankless. It takes a certain person to want to do this job, and while motivation may only be part of the formula, the camaraderie among coordinators and ability to shape the culture of one’s college makes this experience worth it. No words convey how I feel when I see new students running to hug one another in the Lovett commons, or advisors jumping at the opportunity to spend time with their new students. But an ugly side to coordinating exists: New students you’ve been dying to meet feel intimidated by you, advisors think they can complain about a job they didn’t do and the administration hounds you on one end as your peers criticize your conservative decisions on the other.
I am applying to law schools and jobs this year, and despite what we accomplished, I still think the amount of work done as an Orientation-Week Coordinator goes under-appreciated on any resume. Coordinating is a part-time job with meetings scheduled four nights a week over the summer, plus endless hours outside of these. How can I tell employers or admissions counselors this job was harder than most electrical engineering problem sets, or that as a Vice President and Beer Bike Coordinator at Lovett, I think this job matters most on a Rice student’s resume? On top of that, how can I justify the hit my GPA took? To the outside world, during my most recent semester at Rice I added “just another leadership position” to my resume while being knocked down a few notches on the academic totem pole. There’s no place in any application to indicate the real world skills gained, or convey the growth one experiences as a coordinator. Perhaps the worst feeling, though, is when I am asked, “So what exactly is coordinating?” by someone who doesn’t understand what this experience entails. My family thought of this as a job I had “on the side” in addition to other “important” work, and colleagues viewed it as an act of community service unnecessary for my resume. (Because why else would anyone do anything?)
In addition to this, the intersection of these jobs with the administration at Rice made making changes to the week nearly impossible. Rooming more students than facilities could accommodate left coordinators scrambling until move-in day without answers from Dean Hutchinson. To those who think we could realistically organize a renegade Cheer Battle: we couldn’t, and I question if our opinions carried any weight in scheduling events for the week. But oddly enough, despite these roadblocks and frustrations with higher administration at Rice, none of the 32 of us would have made it to O-Week without the help of Chris (assistant director of First Year Programs) or Sneha (2015 O-Week student director), who probably dealt with more bureaucracy than imaginable.
Besides the invaluable interpersonal and time management skills I gained this summer, I still have doubts about aspects of the coordinating process. What gives O-Week coordinators the right to pass judgment as harshly as they do on their peers? Watching people share intimate and meaningful parts of their lives and personalities through applications and interviews, only for us to reject them from such a coveted position on campus, was devastating. It’s a little unfair that only so many people are allowed to be present during O-Week, and that (as much as we may deny it) a hierarchy is created based on who can and cannot be here. Isn’t it our job to be inclusive? And how much am I buying into this hierarchical system by being one of the few who got to hand-select those who are a part of the week? Was coordinating really “all about the new student” or was it a masturbatory position for students attempting to ascend leadership ranks at Rice?
Coordinating brought me more than my fair share of happiness this summer. It introduced me to some of the best people I know at Rice, and the life perspective I gained was worth my sacrifices. As I said in my final remarks at Lovett, I am a firm believer in the statement that the people you surround yourself with have a direct correlation with your happiness. The people present in my life this summer (my fellow coordinators, the Lovett advising team and the Lovett new students) directly contributed to my level of happiness over the past three months, and will probably continue to do so in the future, even when they don’t know it.
Nirali Desai is a Lovett College senior. She was a 2015 O-week coordinator.