First Person Singular: Steve Roche, director of George Washington University's Colonial Inauguration

Steve Rochehas been on both sides of George Washington University's orientation program -- as a student and as its director.
Steve Rochehas been on both sides of George Washington University's orientation program -- as a student and as its director. (Benjamin C. Tankersley)
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Interview by Amanda Long
Sunday, August 8, 2010

Going through Colonial Inauguration as a student at George Washington University, I knew the power [of] being that nervous kid, with your backpack over one shoulder and your parents standing close by, asking a million questions, to knowing where your classes are, where the Metro is -- a comfort and connection with the city and campus. I remember becoming completely immersed. After a day without my parents, they were still a little worried: "Are you having fun? Are you okay?" And I was like, "Yeah. I'm staying up late, eating pizza and talking sports -- and I've registered for classes!"

That's an amazing transformation to happen in 2 days. A big part of that are the students who help run it. If we're just pointing to buildings and talking about famous alumni, that's not enough. But if we become your friend, a familiar face to come back to in the fall, that's huge.

I like making people feel like they're a part of a bigger thing, of a community. I was GW's mascot, George, when I was in school. I worked with Screech, the Nationals' mascot, after I graduated. Now, I guess I'm a different kind of mascot for GW -- all of us are. We're the first taste of what the next four years of their lives are going to be like.

This takes stamina and energy. We're welcoming 1,100 people four times a summer in the middle of the nation's capital. We're planning things for parents, students and siblings. And we don't just stay on campus. We go to Dupont Circle, the Kennedy Center, the monuments. That is a lot of logistics and a lot of emotions. You've got parents who want to know how they're going to pay for this, how they're going to move these kids in, where they're going to park. And students who want to know how to register, who their roommate is and what the food is like. Basically, they're worried about the same thing: How I am going to do this whole college thing? You need lots of energy to explain that.

I start at 5:30 a.m. and don't end until 2 a.m. I'm eating Twizzlers and M&Ms like a college kid, and sleeping on a twin bed in a dorm, so it can get rough. But when I put on that suit and tie in the morning, I know that I have to bring that same energy to every group. Because there's always going to be that one kid, looking lost and worried he'll never fit in, who needs to know it can all work out.

Interview by Amanda Long

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