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SOULs share their hearts for Miami
“They were having fun and dancing around, and I was like, ‘You know what? Maybe I can find a place here.’ ”
And she has. So much so that the Evansville, Ind., dietetics major joined 19 other SOULs this summer to introduce about 3,725 first-year students to Miami.
So what do SOULs – which stands for Student Orientation Undergraduate Leaders – actually do? Buffy Stoll, director of new student programs, takes a big breath before she answers.
“What don’t they do? During orientation, SOULs wake up at the crack of dawn, help welcome new students and family members, perform vignettes about roommates, parents, diversity, and academic advising, and lead small groups in discussions about everything from liberal education and move-in day to diversity and rules about alcohol.” That covers only half of their 17-hour day during a total of 16 sessions.
“Rocky Road” Rob
One activity that touches the SOULs and their students is small-group discussion, which usually starts out with icebreakers in the morning. By evening, conversations can become quite serious.
Rob Alston, aka “Rocky Road” Rob, recalls one first-year student sharing the pain of going through high school with bone cancer. Another brought up the significance of his sexuality and what it meant to him to be the only one in his high school to come out.
“They don’t have to share, but they usually do,” says Alston, a sophomore majoring in German, minoring in entrepreneurship, and reveling in MU Jazz Ensemble, Collegiate Chorale and Stage Left.
Gilman, who adopted the nickname “Cotton Candy” Cami, chimes in, “We’re a resource for first-years, and they shouldn’t be afraid to come to us if they have any problems. When I went through orientation, I discovered I could go to my SOUL, and he would move mountains for me.”
Which explains their alliterative nicknames. They use them throughout orientation to help new students remember their names later when they run into each other on campus.
“I want to be that guy they see across the street, wave to, and yell, ‘Hey, Rocky Road Rob, how you doing?’ ”
Something similar happened to Michele Bailey her first year, but in reverse. She was shocked and then pleased when her SOUL spotted her near the beginning of first semester, called her by name and asked about her classes.
“It was really comforting to know, hey, he remembers me,” says Bailey, a junior majoring in political science and anthropology who participates in Miami University Student Foundation, Love You Like a Sister and the speech and debate team.
written by Donna Boen, editor of the Miamian