Wilkes senior Kya Lewis had never visited campus before sending in her deposit to attend the University. She set her sights on becoming a Colonel after one positive interaction during her sophomore year of high school when she met a Wilkes admissions counselor at Upper Darby High School’s college fair. Now she’s leading the way for incoming first-year students, serving as the orientation coordinator.
The Philadelphia-area native is studying business management and marketing– something that’s come in handy as she’s taken on numerous campus leadership roles. Lewis serves as the two-term Programming Board president, hip-hop director for the campus radio station, 90.7 WCLH, a resident assistant for two years and now orientation coordinator. She has found that all of her campus roles complement each other.
“When the bios came out for each job (for orientation), I was like, ‘wow, I already do all this.’” As orientation coordinator, Lewis has been a primary point of contact for the first-year students, handling changes in majors, orientation dates and student accommodations. It’s nothing new for her, since she’s in charge of planning some of the largest events on campus through Programming Board. In that role, Lewis organizes concerts, campus-wide bingo, trips and more.
“It wasn’t much of a change because I had to talk to all these big, top people for Programming Board so they knew me, I knew them,” she explains. “The only thing that’s different is being on a more professional level… This is more about, (student’s needs) and that has to be more professional.”
“We have the best mentors in the world, so no matter what, they’ll be able to handle it.”
This year, the orientation job brings new challenges as a record number of campus construction projects occur, while she prepares to welcome more than 600 first-year students. Lewis is up to the task. She credits her orientation support staff and Melissa Howells, director of student development, for helping her succeed. “Working for Missy is the greatest thing because she’ll tell you like it is and keep you updated. She answers all questions. It’s perfect—I couldn’t ask for a better leader.” With a large group of students coming into campus during a busy summer, Lewis knows her mentor staff is ready for anything. “We have the best mentors in the world, so no matter what, they’ll be able to handle it.”
Lewis says her majors and extracurricular involvement have given her the leadership skills to handle all levels of the job. “Since I’ve been a freshman in the business field, everything I’ve done on campus has only increased my leadership skills, my responsibility, and my organizational skills. This job requires a lot of customer service and taking the classes I’ve taken and speaking with people and dealing with people, it’s been helpful.”
“I think the biggest thing I take away from Wilkes is meeting the people I’ve met… all the professionals who helped me get where I am.”
The level of professionalism required to lead orientation and the long hours are demanding, but for Lewis, it’s all worth it. Reflecting on her own experience as a mentor to first-year students, she recalls the special connections she’s been able to create. “My one mentee, DeAndre (DePass), said, ‘Kya, I’m going to be the next you on campus.’ It’s things like that I’ll miss big time.” Though she won’t have mentees herself this year, she’s creating the environment for these connections to occur.
Those relationships for Lewis, were a huge part of her college experience. “I think the biggest thing I take away from Wilkes is meeting the people I’ve met… all the professionals who helped me get where I am,” she says.
New connections were key for her, but Lewis also cherishes hometown connections. She and Gabby Butler, senior psychology major, started together as freshman and will finish the journey together when they graduate. “I came to college with my best friend and I get to leave college with my best friend.”