Anna Morris | Assistant News Editor
The 2014 Orientation Committee has unveiled a new name for the “Big Sibs” program, which partners incoming freshmen with sophomores during Wheaton’s Orientation week for a day of community service in Chicago. The program, now called “GO Guides,” has been renamed and revamped by the Orientation Committee in the hopes of clearing up the confusion and frustration that many participants have felt about the program.
The program, which dates back to the early ’80s, was founded with the intent of being a mentorship group for freshmen, where new students had the opportunity to be in community with sophomores that they would meet with over the course of their first year at Wheaton, and possibly throughout their college career. With the increased number of outlets for students to get involved on campus, however, the need for this type of mentorship group has decreased, leaving both sophomores and freshmen confused about what their duties in the program are.
Director of Student Activities Steve Ivester identified points of issue from freshmen who had been involved in the program, and worked with this year’s Orientation Director, junior Michael Daugherty, and the rest of the Orientation Committee, to come up with a solution. This led the committee to suggest a name change which would imply that the nature of the program was for sophomores to be guides for students during their service day in Chicago. This is a change from the idea of big brothers or sisters who had responsibility over their little sibs’ well-being and long-term success at Wheaton.
“The functional role of GO Guides will be solely for ChicaGO Community Service Day; organic events with your GO Group may still happen throughout the semester or year, but that will no longer be a responsibility or burden for participating sophomores,” Daugherty said. “We hope that the name change will eliminate some of the awkwardness or guilt found for groups who never met again after O’Week, and might give a new freedom or initiative for GO Groups who decide to stay connected.”
While a name change has been in discussion for a few years, this year’s Orientation Committee decided to act on the issues that Daugherty and Ivester brought forward to the group. The process involved a two-week discussion, a focus group of eight current freshmen students who shared their insights on their experience with the Big Sib program and a brainstorming session where members of the Orientation Committee shared their ideas for the program’s new title.
“New students’ expectations for this relationship have gone unmet as the term Big Sib has misled them to view the role as an ongoing mentor,” Ivester said. “So I shared this data with the Orientation Committee student director Michael Daugherty in one of our 1:1 meetings this fall. He and I brought this incongruence up with the 2014 Orientation Committee in February and we discussed the merits of keeping the name or changing the name.”
Outside of the name change, the program will remain the same in nature, with sophomores leading a group of freshmen in a service day to Chicago, which will now be called the ChicaGO Community Service Day. The program used to include sophomores leading freshmen on a “fun day” in the city before the community service component was implemented. Ivester said that, although the “Big Sibs” title has been all that current students have known, the new name better reflects the current nature of the program.
“I’ve only heard positive feedback (regarding the new name),” said Ivester. “I believe it’s hard to say good bye to a long loved tradition in using the name Big Sibs, but the program is completely different now that it’s a community service day instead of a sight seeing tour of the city.”
Junior Julia Dennis, who is one of the Orientation Committee members responsible for the ChicaGO Community Service Day and GO Guides program, said that students have been more amenable to the name change once its purpose has been explained.
“We have heard mostly positive responses on the name change. Especially with an explanation of our thinking, students are understanding and in accord,” Dennis said. “A few have thought it was unnecessary, and we can see their perspective — it is always hard to change such a long-standing tradition — but we thought the positives outweighed the negatives.”
Daugherty said that, because many sophomores and freshmen have expressed frustration about their responsibilities and roles in the “Big Sibs” program, they have been generally positive in their responses to the change in nomenclature for next year’s Orientation Week program.
“Most students agree that the name Big Sib or Little Sib invokes too much of a responsibility for sophomores and freshmen, since the groups will only be working together for one day,” Daugherty said. “I hope that the Orientation Committee will be understanding, gracious and informing as we try to serve the Wheaton family.”