WUSA program rising in popularity

| Contributing Reporter
Lee Beau WUSA Jose Antonio Sanchez gets excited as the incoming freshman class enters the Athlectic Center for convocation. WUSA applications are due this week. (Matt Mitgang | Office of Orientation)

Lee Beau WUSA Jose Antonio Sanchez gets excited as the incoming freshman class enters the Athlectic Center for convocation. WUSA applications are due this week. (Matt Mitgang | Office of Orientation)

As the Office of Orientation prepares for its annual Washington University Student Associate selection process, the relatively young program seems to have been successful in helping freshmen and transfer students with their transition into college life.

The WUSA selection process is becoming increasingly competitive, and the Office of Orientation expects to see a rise from last year’s approximately 300 applications. There are only around 60 WUSA spots each year.

Implemented in the fall of 2008, the program (WUSA) was created to help new students with their academic, personal, cultural and social integration into the Wash. U. community. The role of a WUSA is to serve as a dependable resource for incoming students to make their first year a fun and positive experience.

Prior to the WUSA program, there were Orientation Ambassadors (OAs), but unlike a WUSA, an OA’s position was only a weeklong commitment during the first week of school. The semester-long bonds created between WUSAs and their freshman floors did not exist.

Each year, two WUSAs are assigned to every freshman floor, and their responsibilities include spending a minimum of an hour per week on the floor, maintaining a floor academic resource bulletin and social calendar, and attending freshman floor meetings.

“Being a WUSA has been a very worthwhile experience for me because it expands your social and professional sphere,” said sophomore Jacob Witt, a WUSA for Eliot House 1. “I’ve made some lasting friendships with the people on my floor. There is a certain amount of patience and time commitment involved, but it’s fun, so I don’t notice.”

WUSAs say they personally gain a lot from the experience.

“Being a WUSA is important to many people just because they’re representatives for the rest of campus,” sophomore WUSA Parker Brogdon said. “Anyone who enjoys their place here would want to show it off.”

The WUSA program is increasing in popularity.

“The feedback we get each year from the freshmen regarding their WUSAs is very positive, so we want to encourage as many people to apply as possible—not just the freshmen, but also sophomores and juniors,” said sophomore Spencer Goodman, orientation executive board recruitment chair and WUSA for Lee Hall 1.

Many freshmen say they love their WUSAs and feel that they have improved the freshman year experience.

“I think that the WUSAs are extremely valuable to the freshman experience, both [through] the activities that they provide for the floor and also by the relationships that they build with the members of the floor,” freshman Nate Brodell said. “I think that having RAs [is] important, but the WUSAs can provide a different dynamic that is crucial to the freshman experience. I love my WUSAs.”

Other freshmen find the program to be less successful.

“They’re nice, but I need only point at the calendar in the hallway to state how relevant they are to the floor right now,” freshmen Francis Wu said. “I like my WUSAs and find them fun to be around, but they’ve never seemed to become as much of a fixture in the community as we would’ve liked, which I’m assuming is due to their busy schedules.”

The freshman experience, molded in part by the residential advisors and WUSAs, depends on many factors. The success of the WUSA program, and even the RA program, varies greatly depending on the individual.

“With both programs it comes down to the person, because there are good and bad WUSAs and there are good and bad RAs, and the position is only as successful as the person who carries it,” said junior Dithu Rajaraman, an RA and a former WUSA. “The teamwork of the RA and the WUSA is only as effective as the camaraderie that the two people share.”

Goodman also noted that in the coming years, there will be a greater focus on the yearlong commitment aspect of the WUSA position.

“The program is continuously evolving to better meet the needs of the freshmen,” Goodman said. “We learn from our mistakes and improve for the future.”

Current WUSAs shared Goodman’s sentiments.

“I can definitely see the WUSAs having a more active role in freshman programming and working more closely with the RAs,” Witt said.

The application process consists of an online application form, individual interview and group interview.