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Casey Rilling, Bobcat Student Orientation Leader, writes a sign in chalk to encourage stduents to become Bobcat Student Orientation leaders next year, Sept. 22, 2023, in Athens, Ohio.

BSO operates under tight budget

The Bobcat Student Orientation, or BSO, leaders receive a $3,300 monthly stipend and benefits including summer housing and a meal plan, but Vincent Prior, director of undergraduate orientation programs, said he feels like they can do more to support BSO leaders.

Orientation leaders also receive hourly pay any other time they work with BSO aside from the busy summer months, Prior said. The base stipend pay per orientation leader during the 2022 academic year was $3,300, he said.

“The hourly rate starts at $11.25 an hour – that is what they get paid for anytime throughout the year that they work with us,” Prior said. “So, when we have January orientation (or) August, some of those programs are hourly.” 

Leaders are provided with a meal plan that gives them 10 meals a week during the summer months, Prior said. Orientation leaders also receive a shared residence hall room as housing through the end of June. 

Prior said BSO is working with a tight budget to pay the staff and materials for families and the orientation itself to run and what they are paying now is close to the bare minimum. Other institutions with more flexible budgets are able to provide more perks, Prior said.

“We're gonna stick to the students getting paid, being able to eat during our programs and having a place to live if they need it, to support the programs in May and June,” Prior said.

Prior said he believes that being an orientation leader can be difficult at times and knows orientation leaders sometimes deserve more than they are given in their compensation packages. 

“Sometimes it's a very taxing job because … students and their family members are stressed in that new student's transition, and so they sometimes place that on our student staff,” Prior said.

Casey Rilling, a BSO leader and second-year student studying Spanish and philosophy, said she knew she wanted to be an orientation leader from the moment she left her orientation. 

Rillings said the work was exhausting but rewarding. She said orientation leaders would work from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM or 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM and pick back up at 6:30 PM, ending the night at 11:00 PM. Rillings said there were breaks and she was not constantly at work during every shift. 

With the long hours, Rillings said she wishes the university would contribute more but greatly appreciated the connections she made.

“I think the physical benefits of the stipend and the housing and the dining plan don't cover how much we work, but if you start to count in the friendships you make, the people that you're changing, all of that stuff – I do think it does balance out eventually,” Rillings said. 

Although Prior said he wishes orientation leaders could receive more in benefits, Rillings left with gratitiude.

“I keep talking about the connections, that really is the biggest part, because I had no idea going into the summer that I would be this close with this big of a group of people,” Rillings said. “(BSO is) just really a great way to meet new people, make an impact and give back to the community and do all of it while having fun wearing a green polo."

Approximately $350,000 is annually allocated to BSO by the university to provide free housing, dining plans and stipend pay for orientation leaders over the summer when they are working the most.

“This amount was determined prior to the Ohio Guarantee program and is now just a base budget line, regardless of the number of students who attend BSO,” Sam Pelham, OU spokesperson, wrote in an email.

Prior said BSO also receives money gained through fees, collected from guests attending BSO, during their orientation experience. Once that is added to the approximate $350,000 their total budget is around $600,000, Prior said.

“There are fees collected from family members/guest fees (per person) and dependent on the number of family members/guests who choose to participate,” Pelham wrote in an email. “These collected fees are reinvested to support the overall BSO programs for students, families and guests.”

Prior said he would like to give leaders more because of how hard they work to give incoming students a positive orientation experience. 

“I feel like we could do more, but I can't because we're kind of restricted on budget,“ Prior said. "I wish we could because they work very hard for what they get as a part of their compensation package."


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