FlashGuides introduce new students to campus life
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On a sunny Thursday morning, Blair Gabalis walks down the University Esplanade with two students who will be attending Kent State this fall. Gabalis is a FlashGuide for Destination Kent State, and while she has dismissed her group for a break, two of her student followers appear to have enjoyed her presence enough that they continue to walk with her.
Gabalis, a 19 year-old sophomore majoring in integrated language arts, is a native of Columbus, Ohio. She enrolled at Kent State in 2011 with the intention of continuing as a student leader. This is Gabalis’s first year working as a FlashGuide.
“I enjoyed Destination Kent State as an incoming freshman and enjoyed interacting with FlashGuides,” Gabalis said. “They made me feel inspired, and I wanted to get involved.”
Destination Kent State is a mandatory, overnight program for new students under the age of 21 that lasts one and a half days. There are a total of 25 different orientation programs, as listed on the Destination Kent State website.
Initiated in 2009, Destination Kent State is led by executive director Eboni Pringle and associate directors Joanna Leidel and Randi Schneider.
“Destination Kent State helps new students to establish relationships and provides a welcoming environment,” Schneider said. “Destination Kent State offers opportunities for students and their families to integrate into the university community.”
The old orientation program — Placement, Advising and Scheduling System — offered the basics of advising, class registration, financial aid tips and placement that lasted only a section of one day.
Before becoming a FlashGuide, interested students are required to take a two-hour training course in the spring led by Meghan Cisar, assistant director for the Office of Student Success Programs. The course teaches potential FlashGuides how to use campus resources, a basic history of the campus, how to get involved and other student leadership skills. FlashGuides are also required to complete one primary application and two yearly rounds of interviews.
FlashGuides are divided into two teams, one blue and one gold team, each with 22 students. Two graduate students serve as supervisors.
Generally there are about 170 students registered for an orientation, which means there will be about 300 total people. Gabalis said that most commuter students attend alone, while most students who are planning to live on campus bring their parents.
Destination Kent State starts at 7 a.m. on the first day with students and parents checking in before meeting in the second floor ballroom of the Student Center for welcoming and refreshments. Outside of the ballroom, there is a resource fair set up along the hallway and lobby. After this, parents and students separate for different activities.
Students later meet back in the ballroom where they learn about what to expect during their first year and how to get involved on campus. A meeting is also held to discuss Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Gabalis said students are then divided into commuter and on-campus students. The commuter program, called UCommute, is led by Rebecca Kapler, coordinator of commuter services. Students planning to live on campus attend a program entitled “Home Away from Home.”
Gabalis noted all students stay overnight at the Eastway Center, which includes Allyn, Clark, Fletcher and Manchester Halls. Parents either commute, stay at a Kent area hotel or remain in another campus residence hall.
On the second day, students meet with academic advisors to schedule courses for their first semester. After scheduling, FlashGuides will then lead a campus tour on the second day before noon dismissal.
After completing Destination Kent State, Gabalis said FlashGuides will serve as leaders for the August 26 “Back to School Blastoff” and will help instruct the one-hour First Year Experience course that students are required to take during their fall freshman semester.
Gabalis said she not only believes serving as a FlashGuide has helped her leadership skills, but it has also changed her outlook on life.
“Being a FlashGuide changed my perspective on what I want to do with my career,” Gabalis said. “I’m now thinking about working in higher education. The experience helps me to work things out by talking with parents and students.”