New Leo Program to replace orientation leader and PARDner positions


Photo by Caroline Burns for The Lafayette

Sixty sophomore, junior and senior Leos will replace the 47 PARDners and 70 Orientation leaders of the past year. (Photo by Caroline Burns ’22 for The Lafayette)

By Emma Chen, Assistant News Editor

Applications are out on OurCampus for the new Leo Program, combining the past positions of orientation leaders (OLs) and PARDners into one role. Students in this new position will serve as mentors to incoming first year students, guiding them through the academic, social and wellness aspects of transitioning to college. 

“The goal for this program is to create that unified experience for a student which develops for them a relationship with someone even before they step foot on campus here,” Dean of Advising Tim Cox said. “Often in the past, students connect with their orientation leader, and that might be the only time that they see them, but this allows us to develop that relationship over time.”

Previously, orientation leaders welcomed first year students to campus and led events during New Student Orientation prior to the first day of classes. Then, PARDners would assist new students and their transition to college life throughout the entire year.

Leos will be assigned to a First Year Seminar class, with each Leo serving as the direct resource for those students. 

“New students will first meet their Leo over the summer,” Director of Student Involvement Vanessa Pearson wrote in an email. “That same Leo will guide them through the Orientation program before classes begin and remain connected to their students throughout the first year by meeting with them one on one, discussing academic concerns, connecting students with resources, facilitating group activities, helping with course registration, encouraging active involvement, answering questions, and serving as a friend and mentor.”

First Year Dean Brandon Morris echoed this statement, emphasizing that the ability to connect with their Leo before orientation will allow incoming students to create a community before they even get here.

“We’re giving students an opportunity to feel that connection to campus throughout because we know how much can happen with an orientation,” Morris said. “And if there is someone that can be there from that onset throughout the entire first year, it feels like there’s a sense of belonging that can be gathered from that.”

Dean Abigail Close, the college transition specialist, said that the emphasis on having one mentor that can guide the student both educationally and socially is a crucial aspect of this new program. Close emphasized the importance of life outside the classroom and its large effect on performance inside the classroom.

“For a student to be successful in the classroom, we also have to consider what their life is outside of the classroom,” Close said. “So that’s why we’re hoping to combine both the OL program and the PARDner program because that allows a student leader to kind of support the individual both educationally and socially and try to cultivate that sense of community.”

There will be 60 sophomore, junior and senior Leos in total, replacing the 47 PARDners and 70 orientation leaders of the past year, according to Pearson.

“Because it’s a combination of two former programs, we do believe the process will be more competitive, but we encourage everyone who is interested to apply,” Pearson wrote. “We are looking foremost for students who are committed to mentoring first year students and who can build meaningful relationships.”

Cox noted that the application process will prioritize diversity and leadership in the Leos, looking to allow first years to connect with a wide variety of Lafayette students.

“We’ll definitely ensure that we have a wide variety of students with different skill sets from different backgrounds, different leadership capacities,” Cox said. “That’s something that we’re really looking forward to going through as we interview these candidates.”

The Leo position will be a paid position, unlike past orientation leaders but similar to the PARDners. The Leos will each get a stipend of $1,155, according to Pearson.

“The stipend will be broken down throughout four periods of the academic year,” Cox said.

The administration hopes to see many students applying for this position.

“I think we’re excited to see this new program evolve and see how much it can really support our incoming first year students,” Close added.

For those interested in becoming a Leo, there will be information sessions Feb. 17, 12 p.m. and Feb. 21, 7 p.m. on Zoom and Feb. 22, 2 p.m. in the Marlo Room.