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  • Karmen Zhao, Staff Writer

New changes to Opening Days operations in the works for the 2024-25 school year

Updated: Apr 17

Opening days ducks. Art by Eli Fukuji

Plans for the 2024 Opening Days have begun as applications for Opening Days (OD) leaders closed on Feb. 19. New OD student leaders have been chosen and the process of planning and integrating a new system of leadership has emerged. The Willamette Events and Activities website has already posted its general structure of how the 2024 Opening Days will be run, stating, “Opening Days will give you the tools and resources you need throughout your first semester and beyond. This year’s program takes place Aug. 21-25, with move-in day on August 21st.”

 

With the 2023 Opening Days lasting six full days from Aug. 22 to Aug. 27 in comparison to the 2024 Opening Days, which lasted only five days, there is an apparent change in the schedule that cuts out an entire day. 


Along with this alteration, Dean of Students and Director of Student Engagement and Leadership Lisa Holliday explained other changes:  “[We are] really trying to simplify the responsibilities of the OD leaders. … So we are really trying to say, ‘Okay, you’re an OD leader, you’re responsible for helping students connect and build relationships and get them acquainted with the campus and resources.’” Instead of having two OD leaders per group, there will only be one leader per group of 15. “Instead of hiring 60 OD leaders, we will be hiring 40,” said Holliday. This adjustment is meant to relieve some of the responsibilities for OD leaders, but in turn, causes Opening Days to be less student-led. 


The 2023 OD Leaders webpage outlines the former expectations of an OD leader, stating, “They complete a Spring Training and then return to school in August for intensive training and preparation before Opening Days begins. … [These] leaders are also responsible for planning all the events and programs that occur during Opening Days. Every leader is a member of one of the OD committees, each responsible for planning different events.” Though many of these responsibilities remain the same, the new changes made to the OD leader position will decrease this workload. 


According to Holliday, other adjustments are due to feedback from current first-year students about their Opening Days experiences. Some students found the experience to be overwhelming, as she recalled, “There was one day where students were busy from eight or nine in the morning until 11 o’clock at night. It was Colloquium, a couple of educational programs, and then it was Matriculation and then the Glow Up dance. It was just too much.” In order to create a balance within the new schedule, a day was taken off of Opening Days and the events were more spread out so there would be more time to incorporate meals and breaks. 


Willamette student Henry Ives (‘24) was an OD leader for the 2022 school year and in a reflection of his time, he stated, “I’ve always valued so much of the connections that can be made with individual students and I could see the worth of the program and how much people got out of it.” He transitioned his interests into student engagement through his position as an OD leader.


Commenting on the changes to Opening Days that decrease student-led activities, Ives mentioned, “We never have enough leaders to distribute the workload evenly, so hopefully that [change] takes a little bit of stress off student leaders because every year was always, like, too many people being stretched a bit too thin.” With oncoming class sizes increasing steadily every year since the COVID-19 pandemic eased, OD leaders have felt their responsibilities increasing linearly as the role requires more of them. 


As an OD leader for the 2021-2023 school years, Naydine Lima-Mercado (‘24) recalled, “[I] wouldn’t have done it over and over again if I wasn’t interested in improving the program and being part of that experience. … Part of what I would like to see changed for Opening Days would definitely be [more appreciation for the leaders]. … Opening Days leaders do a lot of work. … They commit a lot of their time for a small fraction of payment.” Lima-Mercado led a group of more than 30 international and transfer students the first year she participated in Opening Days. Another year, she led a group of 19 students with the help of another OD leader. 


“I have no doubt that [the Opening Days staff] will pull it together. They always have, we always have. Opening Days have always succeeded because of the way that we’re able to pull it together all at once,” said Lima-Mercado regarding the new changes to the program. 


In hopes of a better work-education-life balance for OD leaders and to reduce the chances of first-year students being overwhelmed, finalized plans are still up in the air as the current academic year nears its end.




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