Harrison Arnold is easygoing. The fourth-year Faculty of Social Science student sits down across from me, and I tell him I’m going to ask him fun questions about himself. He smiles, replying he’ll give me fun answers.
Twenty minutes later, I’ve decided there’s not much that rattles Harrison. Not organizing thousands of first-year students, leading hundreds of sophs — or even needles.
“I was trying to give blood, and I woke up early, I ate breakfast and I did everything they told me to do,” says Harrison. “I even drank a litre of water, and I go there and they tell me my blood pressure was still too low to take my blood. I don’t know what else I could have done! I’m a very stress-free person.”
It’s a key quality to have as 2016’s orientation coordinator: Harrison’s the main liaison between top-tier groups like Western’s administration, the University Students’ Council and the on-the-ground soph community, a group of over 800 student orientation volunteers.
This year, it’s his job to help Western successfully pull off the biggest orientation program in the country. That said, the two-time social science soph admitted he would have never seen it all coming in first-year.
“I rolled up at 8:30 a.m. and people were screaming, and I was a bit timid,” he says about coming to Western. “I’m also a very introverted guy and sophing is known as a very extroverted, outgoing community — loud people and all that. It was all very awkward for me at first.”
But Harrison clicked with his soph. She went out of her way to make him feel comfortable during that first week and bring him up to speed with the group. One year later, and largely inspired by his own experiences, he got to pay it forward as a social science soph himself: one of his students didn’t have an O-Pass, and Harrison stepped up. He put extra effort into making the freshman feel included, like taking him to eat at the Spoke or sitting with him on the sidelines when he couldn’t get into O-Week’s main stage.
“He came up to me a few weeks after that and said an amazing thank you, which to me meant a lot,” he says, adding the student would go on to become a resident soph. “It makes me realize how important the sophing community can be to certain people who need it.”
Now, it's only two months until Harrison’s fourth O-Week, and he's focused on enhancing soph culture and emphasizing that same attitude of openness, acceptance and inclusivity.
"We have over 3,000 people who apply to be sophs," Harrison says. "People really want it ... but there's more to it than just your team. We're one of the most accepting campus communities, but there's always room for improvement," he adds, referring to feedback that the soph community can feel exclusive to some. "All the criticisms anyone can give the program, you always have to look at them and try and improve."
But crunch time or not, the former foot patroller, faculty council member and resident council participant is used to a packed schedule. This summer you'll still catch Harrison outside in the sun squeezing in games of Ultimate Frisbee when he gets the chance.
“If you were to ask me: 'do I consider myself a busy person?' I would say no, but I guess that’s my terms of busy,” he says. “I like getting stuff done, I like feeling like I accomplished something. I’m very calm and relaxed at all times – well, almost all times,” he admits.
Leaving the interview, Harrison's unhurried and optimistic.
“There’s a lot to do, a lot of stress, but it’s been rewarding, that’s for sure. Sorry for going on tangents,” he trails off with a grin.