Public speaking makes Holly Walsh ’18 nervous.
Yet for the last two years, the Willamette student has been an Opening Days leader, responsible for helping new students transition to university life. Like other OD team members, she defies the stereotype of a leader. Indeed, she describes herself as a complete introvert who can “play” being an extrovert for a certain period of time.
Despite her natural disposition, Walsh applied for the position to make the same positive difference in new students’ lives that she experienced during her own first day on campus.
Fun, excited and motivated, her OD leaders were committed to making the Willamette experience the best possible for incoming students. An Arizona native, Walsh was new to Oregon’s quirks and didn’t know what to expect from Willamette or college in general. She spent the summer researching online before her arrival — “Oregon/Portland locals never use umbrellas,” said the internet — but even Google has its limits. She says her OD leaders explained campus culture, answered questions “adults wouldn’t necessarily know and you can’t find on college forums” and offered support throughout the year.
“They created an atmosphere that made me feel so much more comfortable,” says Walsh, who is the program coordinator this year. “I was welcomed into this community knowing what campus resources are available and what Willamette is actually about.”
Students can apply for OD and other 2017-18 campus leadership positions by 11:59 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3. After completing one application, they can be considered for multiple jobs in four programs — Jump Start, Opening Days, Resident Advisors and Compass Mentors. Positions range from leading off-campus excursions to helping students navigate first day activities, and all require training.
Lisa Holliday, associate dean of campus life and director of student activities, says any student can succeed in a leadership position.
“No specific personality is required for these positions as there is no one type of Willamette student,” she says.
Leadership positions don’t necessarily require big time commitments, either. For OD and Jump Start, Holliday says that students can control their level of involvement.
Some campus leadership positions also provide experience in higher-impact decision-making, such as hiring employees, and help students improve career-related skills. Walsh, who wants to be a middle school teacher, says she learned how to more effectively communicate.
This year, she dropped her Compass Mentor job to take on the role as OD coordinator.
“I feel I’m at my best while I’m doing it,” she says. “Because I’m focusing on other students instead of myself.”