By Matt Starlight
With the new semester in full swing, incoming freshmen and transfer students may just be getting the hang of what it takes to be a Tiger. Navigating the campus, occupying various administration buildings, scheduling classes, making new friends, and all the other aspects of being brand new is certainly overwhelming. Luckily, LSU has a few systems in place to help newbies get their bearings, most notably orientation and the STRIPES program, which are lead by LSU Ambassadors and STRIPES leaders, respectively.
For some students, orientation is all the welcome they received, but for those who went through both programs, life at LSU has been much easier.
For students looking to find out what it takes to become one of these leaders and help guide incoming students, DIG spoke with LSU alumnus Ryan Ehrhardt, who was both a STRIPES leader and an LSU Ambassador about the differences in the programs and what it takes to be at the forefront of each. Upfront, it’s clear that there is a misconception about these two different Tigers.
“Everybody sees the Ambassadors on their orientation, so they think ‘Oh, yeah, the STRIPES thing is my orientation.’ Well, STRIPES is not your orientation, STRIPES is something that you volunteer to go to. It’s extra. And it’s not in the least bit related to LSU Ambassadors,” explained Ehrhardt.
So, knowing that they are in fact very different programs, being aware of the various roles of each is crucial.
The first is orientation. Getting a feel for where you are on campus, scheduling your first semester, and getting a handle on what life will be like at LSU all comes from that first weekend led by LSU’s highly trained student volunteers. You can find them around by the uniforms of gold polos featuring the classic tiger eye and a pair khaki shorts.
“They recruit, orient, and advise incoming freshmen or transfer students,” said Ehrhardt. “They give tours once the student is brought into LSU, they lead orientations for them, show them the ins and outs of LSU. They also help them schedule their first semester, which is probably the most important thing they do.
“They basically help them find their way into whatever major they want to be in and help them schedule it,” he explained.
The other of the two is the STRIPES program, which stands for Student Tigers Rallying Interacting and Promoting Education and Service. This optional program was made available only to the students who volunteered before the semester started and is a perfect way to learn what it takes to be a Tiger. Learning cheers, making new friends, and traversing that change from high school to college is what it’s there for.
“The program is meant to teach the history and traditions of LSU to its incoming freshmen and transfer students. Within the program, they have mock first days of school .They show you every building in the campus. They teach you the fight song and the cheers.
“They show every facet of the organizations that could help a student succeed, like the student success program. It’s a tutoring center. They show you where to pay your bills at the registrar. Every which way so that student can be know exactly where they need to go on the first day,” said Ehrhardt.
With the wide array of responsibilities that both programs carry, it’s clear that neither leadership role is easy, but, the subject matter of each obviously vary greatly and that difference is felt in the training.
“With Ambassadors, there’s so much more you have to learn. You have to learn every facet of LSU, because you have to be able to speak about it in front of groups of people. You have to be able to show these students where places are, what you’re supposed to do when you’re advising and what not. You have to pretty much be an expert on almost all the majors and what to schedule. So, yeah, its rigorous when it comes to that,” said Ehrhardt. “So with STRIPES you have to learn all the traditions and history. I would suggest STRIPES is more about how to be a Tiger, whereas Ambassadors is showing students how to do the structural parts like scheduling and where buildings are.
“The students that are LSU ambassadors most likely are STRIPES leaders, but they have to try out for a completely different session, they have to try out. LSU ambassadors is a pretty rigorous tryout process. It’s pretty hard to become an ambassador.”
The LSU Ambassador training is also known for a semester long “associate membership” period to learn the tricks of the trade.
Regardless of which path of leadership you think is for you, the overall message of both programs is helping new students navigate to their new lives as college students. If helping younger students is what you want to do, you cannot go wrong with either choice.