three rows of people standing in blue t-shirts outside the Mary Idema Pew Library

New students participating in Laker Connections find immediate communities

Hundreds of diverse students who participated in orientations sponsored by Laker Connections immediately found communities on campus.

New students who identify as Asian, Black, Native American or Latino/a moved into their living centers on August 22 and attended three days of programming and networking with faculty and staff members.

Thalia Guerra-Flores, assistant director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said some programming was group-specific. For example, orientation workshops for the 80 Laker Familia students focused on identity, student success and resources for DACA and undocumented students.

six people standing in two rows outside on the Allendale Campus
Native American students who attended orientation are pictured with Lin Bardwell (back row, center). Back row, from left, are Jacob Klanke, Bardwell and Camren Stott; front row, from left, are Gwenyth Golembiewski, Eryn Hyma and Harmony Baker.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

Lin Bardwell, Native American student initiative coordinator, said one day at Mno’chigewin, the Native American student orientation, was devoted to identity.

"We built in a day devoted to the experiences of an Indigenous student, and our ways of being," Bardwell said. "We took time getting to know more about ourselves and talked about ways to manage the stress of being at an historically white institution and away from their community."

The orientations are the start of year-round Laker Connections programming. Guerra-Flores said students who attend Laker Familia workshops and events throughout the year build bonds with other students, faculty and staff members.

"That is really what is special about Laker Connections. We really try to be intentional in our programming and we welcome cross-collaboration so our students are exposed to other cultural experiences outside of their own," she said.

Jaden Teow, a first-year student from Florida, enjoyed getting to know her peers during the Asian Student Orientation. 

"This is a good opportunity to meet people, since I am new to campus," Teow said. "In Florida, we never really connected to our Malaysian culture; this is a good chance to get in touch with my Asian side."