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Orientation Worker Honored for Dedication to Incoming Students

June 29, 2009

Orientation Worker Honored for Dedication to Incoming Students

Harjit Gill, the UC Merced
seniorwith phenomenal time management skills, showed up 15 minutes late to receive her own Student Employee award. To be fair, it was a surprise. At first, she was a little confused by the show of congratulations around the room. However, she has been anything but confused by her role as an UC Merced
OrientationAssistant Coordinator. Her job is to make new students feel right at home on campus.

“Orientation is the first step to getting their degree, and their first step to success in life. How we welcome them sets the tone for their college experience. Students become involved in the school, clubs, student government, and there’s a connection between the two. They go hand-in-hand,” Gill explained.

Gill, who comes from a large, close-knit family, places a tremendous amount of value on the support network available for students at UC Merced. “It’s important because without a community or support network from the beginning, students think “there is nothing here for me, no one cares about me here.’ They start letting go and stop caring.”

With an extraordinarily clear vision of what orientation should mean, look like and feel like to new students and families, Gill has been meticulous about having carefully constructed, laboriously detailed plans for executing that vision, and a leadership style far beyond her years of experience.

“I have to have it all written out in different colors on a whiteboard, and my Post-It notes are color-coded. Even my study notes are color-coded,” said the
biological sciencesmajor who can’t wait to become a pediatrician. “My coworkers laugh because if something’s a mess, I have to organize it. I have to have it in its place. I can’t wait for Monday to put things away.”

As the first student to own the position, Gill has had to create each activity and build the supporting systems from scratch. She has been cognizant of the fact that she is leaving behind a legacy that will continue to lead and support future coordinators for years to come.

But “detail-oriented” barely begins to describe this enthusiastic worker. Gill’s philosophy is that planning ahead enables her to be flexible and stay calm when the unpredictable happens in the middle of an event.

“I have a plan or a vision, but I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen until it unfolds before me. There are hurdles before the event, and there are hurdles during the event. If you become hotheaded you end up exploding and nothing gets solved. You really can’t solve the problem at hand.”

Gill claims she was shy in high school, but those who have worked with her and witnessed her outgoing, warm, and friendly personality, especially during Orientation Week, would be hard-pressed to believe it.

Gill said breaking out of her shell had a lot to do with her supervisors in the
Student Advising and Learning Center. “They really foster new ideas. People actually wanted to hear my ideas. They were always encouraging, and telling me to speak up.”