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AU News

Alpha Leaders are There for Incoming Students

Some Anderson University Alpha Leaders share what it’s like to help new students adjust to college life and experience community.

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Heading to college for the first time is a huge step. That’s why it’s so important that every incoming Anderson University student has someone come alongside them to support, encourage and guide.

Incoming Anderson University freshmen all become part of an Alpha Group, a small group of new students led by an upperclassman—known as the Alpha Leader—that is assigned to a First Year Experience Class (AU101).

Upperclassmen student leaders have the opportunity to apply to be an Alpha Leader in spring of the prior year. It’s a highly selective process.

“This year we had 138 applicants and we hired 58 of those applicants,” said Associate Director of New Student Programs Sam Walker at the Anderson University Office of Student Life. Alpha Leaders are on campus a week before classes begin to prepare for the incoming class, learning about leadership and sorting through the logistics while getting to know one another better as they prepare for the influx of students.

“We get to hire some of the best student leaders on campus and give our ‘A’ game to our incoming first year students… When that student arrives on move-in day, there is someone on this campus who is expecting them, awaiting their arrival, knows they are coming. I think that’s incredibly distinct, and as we grow as a university, to still have that integral piece of our first-year experience is irreplaceable.”

“Alpha Leading is really unique in the fact that we’re essentially the first impression of Anderson to these students,” said Gracey Jackson, a junior from Greenville majoring in Accounting and minoring in International Business. Jackson, who is in her second year as an Alpha Leader, looks forward to meeting her students.

“I get to cheer them on and help them walk through what it looks like to have a good relationship with the Lord and get them connected to different ministries. One girl in particular reminds me a lot of myself from my freshman year, so I’ve been able to mentor and lead her through that.”

Having that kind of relationship right from the start can make a huge difference. Just ask Tate Sigmon, a sophomore Christian Studies major from Asheville, North Carolina.

“My first day of freshman year, I lost my mom, so my Alpha Leader Carter Lacy met me on the second day,” said Sigmon, who is now an Alpha Leader. “He immediately prayed with me and it was just like he was already there for me, and the rest of the year we grew a lot closer and he’s also still an Alpha Leader. It’s cool that God placed him in my life and that we could continue to grow.”

“Really connecting with students can look like so many different things,” said Alex McCain, a sophomore from Pelzer majoring in Secondary Social Studies Education and an Alpha Leader. “Something that’s really easy for me is… a lot of my guys play sports, so I just talk with them about sports a lot, but then you kind of have to take an interesting approach to some of the students you may not have a ton in common with, but those relationships end up being the best, because you’re pursuing that relationship a little bit harder.”

When Caroline Bryant was entering Anderson University as an incoming freshman from Greenville, her Alpha Leader was Karsen Bryan. Both being education majors, they hit it off quickly.

“A really sweet thing I’ve gotten to experience with her is she’s still my BCM leader, so she served me not only in the Alpha Leader role but also in the BCM role during my freshman year,” said Bryant, who is also now an Alpha Leader. “Getting to see all of the different aspects of mentorship she brings to my life has been huge and she’s had an integral part of how I am as a Christian today.”

“Something the Lord has taught me a lot was the fact that we’re all coming to college, we might say we’re coming here for school, we might say we’re coming here for sports, but every single one of us is here for relationships,” said Alpha Leader Josh Gilliam, a finance major and Christian studies minor from Columbia. “It’s what everyone wants, what everyone desires and really what everyone needs. Something I’ve loved about this position is I’ve been able to be that relationship for a lot of my students.”

“Every year has looked a little different, but one of the main things that stays super consistent is the fact that we’re not just here to love on the students but we’re also here to remind them of who Jesus is with wherever they’re at,” said Caroline Gallman, a third-year Alpha Leader who is a senior from Greenville majoring in Marketing and Finance. “It’s cool we’re in a school where it’s okay to talk about scripture and encourage students in that way.”

“I think something that makes Alpha Leaders distinct and that I love about the position is their primary role is just to be a great friend,” Walker said. “In a lot of other student leadership positions, you might be someone who is enforcing policy, you might be someone who is pulling together academics or athletics, but being an Alpha Leader just comes down to being a really, really great friend.”


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