SOCs welcome new director, Carissa Johnson to the team

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As the new semester rolls in, members of the student transitions team thank their previous director Mckinlaye Harkavy for her time and guidance, and they give a warm welcome to Carissa Johnson, the new director of student transitions and family engagement who oversaw all of the SOCs this summer. 

A SOC, Summer Orientation Counselor, is a student who welcomes new students to our campus and shows them the ways of Washburn. During summer, Washburn holds a series of new student orientations, hosted and guided by the happy and enthused faces of our SOCs. They also assist with enrolling in courses, as well as sending follow-up messages to ensure that new students are effectively utilizing all that Washburn has to offer. Students hold their position as a SOC from February through August. They also focus a lot on running Welcome Week. SOCs are trained and have extensive resources and knowledge regarding student life whether you are a new or transfer student.

“I applied to be a Summer Orientation Counselor because when I went through orientation, it looked like the SOCs were having the time of their lives working together and meeting new students. That was super appealing to me because I love having a constant flow of new people to meet,” said Starla Cochenour, a SOC from this summer.

This was Cochenour’s second year as a SOC and it is the connections she makes with incoming students that continues to bring her back each year. As a SOC, Cochenour gets the chance to see students blossom throughout the school year as they get involved in organizations at Washburn. However, it wouldn’t be possible without having such a diverse staff to connect with the students. In addition to the staff, Cochenour gives positive remarks of the new director and her impact on the SOCs.

“Our new director, Carissa Johnson, is an awesome addition the the SOC team! She joined us this summer and wasted no time diving into her position. She was always there to support new students, guests, and SOCS. During welcome week especially, she made sure that we SOCs were taking care of ourselves. Carissa even kept healthy snacks in her office for us in case we needed a quick energy boost in between events,” Cochenour said. 

The new director benefits the Washburn community by assuring that all of the SOCs have up-to-date knowledge regarding the campus and resources for Washburn students. Johnson looks for many qualities in a SOC to make a successful experience for everyone involved.

“Overall, I am seeking individuals who want to be part of a team, serve as a resource to incoming students and authentically represent our institution,” Johnson said. “I want the SOC role to be more than a job. I want it to be a learning experience, where students gain transferable skills for the path they choose post-college.”

Cochenour feels that the SOC experience is exactly how Johnson explains it. One of her favorite memories as a SOC didn’t even happen during an orientation. Part of SOC tradition is to have a sleepover before or after orientation. She enjoyed being able to spend timer with friends and get to know one another better. 

“If I hadn’t become a SOC, I may have missed out on meeting some of my best friends. I am so thankful for the amazing people I’ve met through my position. I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Cochenour said.

This year, Johnson’s position engages the siblings and family of current Washburn students as well.

“As part of Family Weekend, I am also coordinating Siblings Day, which is Sept. 21st, where siblings of current Washburn students visit for a night of activities and stay overnight with their sibling,” Johnson said.

After a successful summer, Johnson has a bright future ahead and looks forward to the next group of SOCs to welcome incoming students at Washburn.