Helping Students Get Oriented Back on Campus

After nearly two years of the campus being closed, the Office of Student Life and Development at Whatcom Community College is working diligently to increase engagement and get students involved again in campus life.

ASWCC President Joshua Norton speaking at student orientation.
ASWCC President Joshua Norton speaking at student orientation Sep 16 at Whatcom Community College Syre Student Center. Photo by Erik Cruz.

“People don’t talk about it enough but being a student is hard,” Associated Students of Whatcom Community College President Joshua Norton explained during the new student orientation. “Creating a strong environment is important because being a student is hard.”

Norton’s recommendation for getting involved? “Come to Syre, it’s the student center.” Additionally, he extends an open invitation to join Student Life: “Get involved, working on campus is fun!”

Beginning Aug. 30 and ending Sep. 16, Whatcom’s revamped student orientation has been bringing new students through several different stations which allow them to acquaint themselves with the resources available to them and familiarize themselves with the campus. For example, Suzanne Holtrod, a Running Start student who is hoping to graduate high school early found that the tour helped her understand that the campus was: “Not as intimidating as I’d thought.”

Student (blonde-haired girl in salmon t-shirt)
Running Start student Suzanne Holtrod attending student orientation Sep 16. Photo by Erik Cruz.

Although the tour helped many first-year students learn about the resources available to them, not everyone attended and the information could be valuable even to existing students, especially those who have yet to fully experience the campus and may not know about these opportunities.

Cherise Braun, Vice President of Operations for ASWCC, has many options for getting involved. One of her main goals for the upcoming academic year is to get 200 students to sign up for volunteering opportunities. Although there are many established volunteer opportunities such as the Orca Food pantry or helping with the organization and operations of diversity events (and many others!), Braun is open to any ideas.

“Volunteering with us means doing whatever someone can do – it’s people looking for community when they have time,” she said. For anyone interested, Braun can be contacted at or by going in person to the Student Life help desk in Syre Center.

Volunteering is not the only way to get involved. Whatcom currently has five active clubs and two in formation. “Clubs are a way students can build a sense of community”, says Jessica Haryono, ASWCC’s VP for clubs.

For those interested, Haryono also has information on creating a club: “We’re looking for more clubs. You need five students, two student officers, and a faculty advisor.” After meeting those requirements, prospective clubs must fill out a club chartering packet as well.

Orca Central, located in the Heiner building, was the next stop on the campus tour. Orca central serves, as the website states, as “a one-stop for services and support” and has a variety of resources available to students.

Services at hand at Orca Central range from help in enrollment to paying for college or appointments with advisors who can give personalized help on various aspects of student life such as career planning and help with academic placement.

Orca Central in the Heiner Building at Whatcom Community College.
Orca Central in the Heiner Building at Whatcom Community College. Photo courtesy of

In addition to standard academic advisors, Orca Central offers more personal and in-depth advising services. TRIO, a state-funded program, can offer resources such as grant information, personal finance for college, and much more although the program does have specific requirements for entry. AIM, another program with similar benefits, is open to all.

It is the goal of Campus Safety & Security at Whatcom to ensure that students feel safe and that everything is running smoothly. Their office, located in room 103 of the Laidlaw Center, hopes to function as a resource for students who are needing help (they have first aid supplies and a jump box!) and are available to provide safe escorts – a service that allows students to have an escort while walking to class or to their car.

Chris Evans, a security guard for Campus Safety & Security said at the orientation, “If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, flag us down.”

Security guard Chris Evans addresses group at student orientation at Whatcom Community College..
Security guard Chris Evans addresses group at student orientation at Whatcom Community College Sep 16. Photo by Erik Cruz.

Additionally, the security guards ensure that cars are parked correctly. Parking lots on campus are for the exclusive use of students, staff and campus guests during the day with overnight parking not allowed, except for student residents.

Although permits are not required for parking on campus (apart from Cedar Hall which does have parking permits), areas with no parking signs and the visitor area are off-limits to both students and staff and those parked improperly may get a ticket.

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