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Finding a home by offering advice

As an orientation adviser, Aleek Sherikian acts as a liaison between staff and students. (Photo/Nathan Carter)

As a transfer student, Aleek Sherikian was well aware of the “get your units and get out” stereotype applied to her and students like her. But for Sherikian, it was important to find her place at USC — and she did.

“Around last fall, Orientation Programs had just begun to put up recruitment posters for becoming an orientation adviser,” said Sherikian, a junior majoring in international relations and minoring in urban policy and planning. “I saw one of [the posters] and told myself that if I was going to get involved with USC, Orientation Programs would be the thing for me.”

As an orientation adviser (OA), Sherikian helped incoming students adjust to USC, provided assistance with the advisement and registration process, and worked with staff to coordinate orientation sessions.

After spending her summer in that post, Sherikian was named one of two orientation coordinators (OCs), who act as liaisons between the full-time, professional staff and the student staff.

“I went from the lowest student position in the office to the highest student position,” she said. “I’m excited for the challenges and obstacles that are about to come my way.”

Tom Studdert, director of Orientation Programs, said that students who want to be an OC must have served previously as an OA.

“We look for a broad range of skills,” Studdert said. “Someone who can not only supervise but also be a mentor; someone who has excellent communication skills in both speaking and writing; someone who can lead a group of orientation advisers through the entire year; and someone who has the ability to teach and train.

“There is a variety of competing personalities when you pull 40 people together,” he added, “so we look for someone who can mesh well with students with different personalities and help them grow as leaders.”

Studdert is excited to have Sherikian return to the department in her new position.

“Working with Aleek has been fantastic,” he said. “She has a good understanding of the students that come into the university. She knows how to engage [them], motivate them and work with those students through the orientation process. I know she’s going to do a great job.”

USC has always been Sherikian’s dream school and getting her acceptance letter was “one of the most exciting moments of my life,” she said.

Her dream job would be to work for the United Nations or in urban planning with a focus on planning sustainable cities, and she believes her experience in Orientation Programs will serve her well.

“One thing that Orientation Programs taught me is getting tasks done in a timely manner,” said Sherikian, who transferred from Glendale Community College last fall as a sophomore. “That will definitely help me in the future when it comes to strict deadlines.”

Most importantly, she said, working with Orientation Programs “got me to feel that I belonged at USC.”

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