The incoming students are nervous, cautious – and sometimes even a little overwhelmed – about what they’re about to go through.

It’s Fussenegger’s job to be their lifeline during the process and get their college experiences off to a good start.

Fussenegger, a senior from Louisville, is in her second year as a member of the Summer Orientation Staff (SOS).

They get here and they have no idea what they’re getting themselves into, she said of the new students. And then we’re loud and energetic. They begin to think ‘Oh, this is college. It’s different from anything I’ve done before.’

Fussenegger is one of 28 SOSers who guide new students as they maneuver the orientation process. SOSers literally lead the incoming students from math and reading tests to sessions with academic units – and even to lunch.

During each of the 14 orientation sessions, each SOSer works with six to 17 students.

The SOSers are a very energetic and enthusiastic group of student leaders, said Alyssa Murphy, associate director of Undergraduate Admissions who oversees the SOS program. SOSers have the opportunity to make a very positive and spirited first impression on a new or transfer student and families.

Energy is the key word.

Orientation has become less formal and more of an overall experience for students, Fussenegger said.

The best thing we’re doing is integrating a lot more spirit. It used to be a lot of sitting, she said. It’s evolved into something more spirited and fun.

But being upbeat is just part of the job. SOSers are mentors and representatives to new and transfer students to introduce them to the university community, resources, academic expectations and opportunities for campus involvement. And their work doesn’t end when orientation does. They often work other events during the year and continue to be resources for the new students, answering questions and referring them to appropriate campus departments and services.

SOSers also help the families of new students understand the university and the resources available to help their students be successful Cardinals.

Becoming an SOSer is a competitive process. Students submit an application with letters of recommendation in the fall, then go through group and individual interviews. In the spring, the group takes a leadership course together and begins to prepare for the job. And once selected, SOSers have to maintain a 2.5 grade point average to remain on the job.

It’s a wonderful program. You give a lot and sacrifice a lot, but you get so much, said Megan Reeves, a second-year SOSer from Bowling Green, Ky. Seeing successful first-year students is what keeps us going.