What I Learned from being a Cyclone Aide
Throughout the spring semester of the freshman year I woke up at 8:00 am twice a week to meet with my class of Cyclone Aides. Our seminar was often an opportunity for campus resources to come in and speak with us about how they relate to our position. The lesson that impacted me the most was presented by the Multicultural Student Affairs Office. The office facilitated some very difficult conversations about different aspects of diversity that we would see throughout the summer while working with the incoming students and their families. We got into small groups and were asked how we would respond to the question “Why are there so few Native Americans at Iowa State?”. I remember that we were all super nervous to talk about it because we didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and say the wrong thing. In reality, this is a real question that we could be asked at any point in the summer, and we needed to prepare for it. It is hard to respond to a question like that because navigating conversations about diversity often is, but I left that day feeling proud because I was beginning to see a new aspect of my role as a Cyclone Aide that I didn’t realize existed before.
Every day throughout orientation I held this lesson close because I could see the importance of it in the stories and experiences of the people that I met and helped. New students vary in age, financial status, race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, mental and physical health, and dietary needs, and their families come in all shapes and sizes. We often take for granted the language we use, and I learned to be more sensitive to the fact that not every student has parents or can walk up a flight of stairs, and not every family member that attends orientation with them is going to be fully supportive throughout their student’s transition to college. Their family members may not speak any English. Students may be attending orientation with no family there to accompany them. Students may bring their children with them. Some students will be very familiar with the orientation process because their entire family went to Iowa State, and others will be the first person in their family to pursue higher education. In the Cyclone Aide position, you learn that all students will need different things from you in your position in order to have a great experience. A student athlete who is trying to schedule their classes is going to have very different questions compared to a student with learning disability and doesn’t know who to reach out to on campus.
Throughout the summer of 2016 I interacted with over 6,000 students and 8,000 of their family members while assisting with orientation, and every meeting was unique because everyone has a different experience. Through this position you gain a better understanding of how to navigate tough conversations about all aspects of diversity. You learn how important it is to be open-minded and intentional about your language and the assumptions that you may make. It changes the way that you choose to interact with others for the better, and that makes the experience of being a Cyclone Aide even more valuable.
Gabi is a sophomore in chemical engineering and was a 2016 Cyclone Aide.