Oriented Himself for Leadership
Orientation Coordinator Kevin Rutkowski entered USC with high expectations, none of which seemed to pan out. He didn’t get into his first choice a cappella group, he didn’t end up living in his preferred residence hall, and he dropped his international relations major because it seemed too difficult.
“I was just not getting the USC experience I thought I was going to have, so Orientation played a big role in teaching me and showing me there were so many other things to do on campus, so many other activities, so many other venues in which to find friends and research opportunities, so many other leadership roles,” he said. “It just proved to me that, despite my expectations not playing out, there are still thousands of other options at USC.”
Looking for a way to help other freshmen make that same big transition, Rutkowski applied but was not accepted as an Orientation Advisor (OA) his freshman year. However, the political science and theatre double major worked hard and was accepted as an OA the summer after his sophomore year.
“It motivated me to become more involved and to improve anything that would make me a better candidate for Orientation Advisor,” Rutkowski said. “It was a great opportunity for me to go through freshman year as a regular old freshman – experience everything I could and learn from that, so I could reapply.”
Director of Orientation Programs Tom Studdert said Rutkowski showed maturity by working to become a qualified candidate during his sophomore year.
“I watched him, over the course of his OA experience, grow as a student leader and as a professional working with students and parents, really understanding what it takes to be an effective representative for the university,” Studdert said. “Over the course of his tenure as a student, he’s really developed a worldview and understanding of what it means to be a student leader.”
As an OA, Rutkowski helped incoming students adjust to USC, provided assistance with the advisement and registration process, and worked with staff to coordinate Orientation sessions.
Rutkowski excelled to such a degree that Studdert asked him to apply to be an Orientation Coordinator (OC), a liaison between the full-time, professional staff and the student staff.
“Kevin is one of those hallmark student leaders that has really utilized his experience at USC to grow,” Studdert said. “That’s why Kevin is perfect for this job, a senior student leader position on our campus, and he has without a doubt matured into that role really well.”
Because he enjoyed his work as an OA, Rutkowski was eager to return to Orientation Programs as an OC.
“I see this as an opportunity to cultivate new leaders on campus,” he said. “I hope that I can influence them by training them as best I can.”
In addition to his work in Orientation Programs, Rutkowski was a Resident Assistant (RA) his junior year, worked for Parent Programs for the last two years, served as president of the all-male a cappella group Trojan Men and founded an organization called Theatre Forum, an intellectual outlet for theatre students to critically analyze USC shows.
Although his transition to university life was a little rocky, Rutkowski found his niche at USC and encourages freshmen to find their places as well.
“I understand how critical that transition is, coming to USC,” Rutkowski said. “I don’t want students coming into USC thinking that nothing is going as planned, so this must not be the right institution. Because USC is such a large university, students have to make it smaller for themselves in order to feel comfortable and feel a part of the Trojan Family.”