If you hear the word “WOW” and your mind fills with countless acronyms, songs and traditions, then you are probably one of the hundreds of students on campus who devote themselves to the Week of Welcome (WOW) orientation program.
Cal Poly’s orientation program is one of the largest in the nation and is becoming a model for other universities, said Andrene Kaiwi-Lenting, Cal Poly’s director of orientation programs.
WOW is a program designed to familiarize new students with the campus and San Luis Obispo community.
“Our general goal for WOW is to have students know how to navigate the campus . Having a smooth transition is really the key,” Kaiwi-Lenting said. “It’s really just a fun way to introduce students to what the university and town have to offer.”
The program is broken into the WOW Board, WOW TEAM and Orientation Leaders (OLs).
The Board is made up of five to seven members who plan out the week’s events and oversee TEAM members in training the OLs. The Board, elected every spring, begins their work at the end of summer.
WOW TEAM, which currently has 48 members, consists of facilitators and a production crew. Facilitators lead small groups of leaders-in-training during spring quarter, who are working to “graduate” from the program to become official OLs. The production crew assists facilitators and works behind the scenes of the training sessions.
TEAM goes through advanced leadership training during winter quarter before they are able to train the new OLs in the spring.
Board members head committee groups that are made up of TEAM members. Each committee, such as Awareness and Events & Entertainment, focuses on a different aspect of WOW. Through committee work, the presentations and activities of WOW are planned each year. OLs do have freedom in the activities their WOW group participates in, but there are some mandatory events during the week.
WOW would not be possible without the new students who are referred to as WOWies. OLs spend five days with a group of WOWies before fall quarter begins in hopes of helping them transition into their new lives at Cal Poly.
Alex Dunks, WOW Board member and business senior, said WOW “has been a great way to get involved in the campus.”
“It gives me a lot of campus knowledge, but it has also given me a lot of leadership skills . I like giving back to the school and feeling involved – like I’m making my time here worthwhile,” he said.
Last year, there were 758 leaders-in-training participating in WOW spring training, a program high, Kaiwi-Lenting said.
“Leaders are really signing on and truly making a commitment to what they are signing on to, and they know what they are getting themselves into on the front end,” she said. “I feel like they want something from the experience besides having this group of 15 to 20 students that are going to do whatever they say to do.”
Those participating in WOW spring training meet from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Tuesday in Chumash Auditorium for the 10 weeks of spring quarter.
Each training session simulates a day of the week that will occur during the actual WOW.
“We go through each day and what the leaders can expect to do that day. We try and do a lot of different activities,” Dunks said. “We cover awareness presentations, leadership styles and we process in small groups.”
WOW is known for its many traditions that are passed down each year, especially those of spring training. These traditions include Board singing a song, and a weekly top 10 list given by three TEAM members, Dunks said.
“A lot of people think WOW is all fun and games, but it’s not. There’s so much more that goes into it. But, we definitely try and make everything fun as long as it’s an appropriate time to do so,” Dunks said.
Spring training begins tonight at 7 p.m. in Chumash Auditorium. Students can sign up through their Mycalpoly portal or can just show up at the first training session to check it out. However, to participate in the program, students must attend the first meeting.