Behind the Scenes

September 5, 2022 Jaidyn Kamplain & Charis Ochu

Student employees are instrumental to the success of various campus events and departments at Hardin-Simmons University. Over the summer months, a handful of students return to campus earlier than their peers to receive training for their specialized jobs and to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Weeks of prep work and training take place for students who will lead STAMPEDE (new student orientation) and students who will be Resident Assistants (RA). Members of our news team participated in the planning and implementation of these roles and shared their experiences below. 

Jaidyn Kamplain: Stampede Training POV

Jaidyn with other STAMPEDE Wranglers

My experience as a Resident Assistant during my sophomore year created space for meaningful relationships as we welcomed students into their new accommodations for the year. I was grateful for the opportunity to continue those relationships as we held events in the lobby, hung out with residents, or simply waved across the hallway throughout the school year.

This year, I decided to take part in STAMPEDE, one of the first introductions to HSU traditions and community through a week of spirited events. I knew the week would be filled with events such as renting out the Abilene Zoo, Paint Wars, and Beanie Capping, but was curious to discover how my role as a student leader, or “Wrangler,” would differ from that of a student’s.

My first surprise was learning about Steering Committee. The Steering Committee is a student-led group that worked tirelessly behind the scenes months in advance to solidify STAMPEDE’s schedule. In conjunction with Student Engagement staff, the Steering Committee truly made STAMPEDE what it was and passed their spirit along to Wranglers throughout training.

“A highlight of STAMPEDE for me was seeing the hours the Steering Committee put in during their work week,” shared Director of Student Engagement Meagan McKinney. “They worked nine-hour days preparing for Wrangler Training and, the week of STAMPEDE, came up with rainy-day and backup plans in case things changed.”

Before first-year students moved in on Tuesday morning, I joined the other Wranglers on Sunday to begin training. We learned about the schedule of events, our roles, and most importantly, we learned our primary goal was to make people feel welcome.

In addition to meetings, we took part in group-building exercises and played games to get in the spirit of STAMPEDE. Entering the week with an encouraging team, a hard-working Steering Committee, and our spirits high, we felt prepared to welcome first-year students onto campus.

“The goal for Wrangler Training is for Wranglers to feel prepared for the week,” said McKinney. “We hope they leave training feeling equipped to lead their students for the week and make lasting connections with first-year students.”

Following training, we dove into the week by helping students move in on Tuesday. With music playing, we cheered for students, unloaded their cars, and carried their possessions up flights of stairs. That night, we hosted Late Night on Anderson Lawn, where we connected with students over s’mores, yard games, and even standing in line for a local food truck.

Line dances and laughter broke out on the lawn, and with the string lights overhead I was reminded of where I started. First-year me stood at these events eager for friendship; senior year me stood and watched strangers that eventually became friends reaching back out to younger students, pulling them into a line dance or offering them a s’more.

I would serve the next few days as a Wrangler for the team Groot (which, as a side note, won best overall team!). Without the preparation done by Student Engagement and Steering Committee, as well as the lessons we learned in Wrangler Training, STAMPEDE would not have been as fun and fruitful as it was.

From being a Resident Assistant to this year serving as a Wrangler, I have experienced the intentionality of HSU staff members firsthand. Preparing for events administratively is one thing; pouring into students and equipping them to lead in fostering connections on campus is another. I am so proud to be a part of the Hardin-Simmons family!

 Charis Ochu: RA Training POV

Charis with the other RAs of Anderson Hall.

During my first year at Hardin-Simmons University, I appreciated the dedication of the RAs in my building. Whenever I had questions or concerns, my RA was there to help me or point me toward a resource. After much consideration, I decided to apply to be an RA and was fortunate to get hired for the following year (2022-2023)!

For three weeks over the summer, RAs went through intensive training to prepare for the new year. This training covered various topics, including emergency responses, health and safety checks, and other key topics that affect the well-being of residents on campus. We also went through an exercise called “behind the scenes,” where we acted out scenarios that could possibly occur in the residence halls and practiced our responses.

The highlight of training for me was being able to bond with other staff members. From icebreakers to team-building exercises to creating music videos and having dinner with my team, connecting with my teammates was memorable. Having trusted teammates who I could move forward with gave me confidence as we neared move-in.

Another one of my favorite aspects of prepping for residents was decorating the residence halls. RAs were tasked to decorate their halls with any theme of their choice. In preparation for move-in day, we set up decorations and carried out final checks on our residents’ rooms to ensure they were move-in ready!

On move-in day, we met residents, checked them in, and gave them tours of the building and their new rooms. With new keys in hand and a friendly face or two, new students hopefully felt seen and loved in their new accommodations for the year.

Because of our preparation and bonding before the school year began with ResLife, I look forward to all the events that will take place this semester and getting to know residents as they navigate their new lives at HSU!