December 15, 2008

Orientation handbook wins national award

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- It might not answer every life question, but when it comes to anticipating -- and answering -- college-life related questions, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale orientation handbook does a darn good job.

That’s not just a casual opinion. That comes from the National Orientation Directors Association, which awarded the “SOAR ’08: What’s Your Game Plan?” the 2008 Outstanding Orientation Handbook award.

SOAR stands for Student Orientation Advisement and Registration. The handbook goes to every new SIUC student who goes through SOAR.

“It’s one of the most comprehensive resources a student will receive,” Angela Royal, director of New Student Programs, said. “We try to wrap our brains around every question a student might have and we try to answer them here.”

Royal said she is especially proud of the recognition for the SOAR handbook because it was a cross-campus collaborative effort. She noted that more departments and offices across campus are using the SOAR handbook to communicate with students.

The handbook does more than just repeat information already online. It offers new students advice -- sometimes from students on the SOAR staff -- about how to navigate SIUC and to enjoy the “Southern Experience.” The information in the handbook helps a new student understand why a college education is important to their goals, what they should expect and what is expected of them, and how they can help themselves.

The handbook also familiarizes a student with campus resources from public safety issues to health care, study assistance, recreation, cultural opportunities, options for spiritual growth, and more.

“It helps them take ownership of their college experience,” Royal said, noting that students often make connections during SOAR sessions that last throughout their college years and even beyond them. “We try to take care of everything at SOAR so that on move-in day, a student can show up ready to go. The more connected a student feels to the University, the more likely they are to stay and finish their college degree here.”

Participation in SOAR is a requirement for all SIUC freshmen, and is strongly recommended for transfer students. There is a component for parents, too. To learn more about SOAR, visit The page also provides links to profiles of the students who serve as SOAR staff.

“We’re thrilled to receive the award from the national association, but we are already thinking about next year,” Royal said.