On a June morning that seemed like any other, Mack Read awoke to find her leg bleeding.
It appeared something had bit her while she slept in her student rental house on Talbot Street. A few days earlier, Mack and her roommates had discovered a bat living in their home. One year later, Mack laughs as she tells me about the incident, but the bat bite was no joke back then. Following a trip to the emergency room, Mack had to get rabies shots for weeks. It took three weeks for Mack and her roommates to finally get the bat to go on its way.
That’s the story behind Mack's soph name Batgirl. After three years of sophing, she's now leading O-Week as the orientation coordinator — more commonly known as the OCO.
For a small group of Western students, like Mack, O-Week is a cyclical event that can be the highlight of the year.
“It makes me quite nostalgic thinking about leaving the sophing program. This will be my fifth O-Week which I can’t believe,” Mack says. “But at the same time I think, I hope, I’ll be ready to move on and try something new.”
A psychology student at Brescia University College, Mack had a burning desire to be a soph from her very first day on campus. She was a Brescia soph for two years before getting promoted to head soph.
“I was so nervous moving out, it was just a frantic day packing my stuff, saying goodbye to my dog, even though I was just driving a few blocks away it seemed to be such a huge deal,” Mack says. “O-Week was honestly the best. I loved it. I remember we pulled in and there were a million sophs that ran over to the car.”
For Mack, being a soph and coordinating orientation isn’t just about a single week, it's about building a strong foundation for the year. Acknowledging how lucky she was, Mack accredits her smooth transition from high school to university to sophs who encouraged her to get involved and connected her to many of the people she now calls friends.
Two people who Mack now considers very close friends are Marisa Cho, the academic orientation coordinator and Leslie Ruggeri, the residence orientation coordinator. Having worked together since October 2016, the three have spent countless hours together planning for the 2017 O-Week.
Unwilling to give herself too much credit for the upcoming week, when I first reached out to Mack, she replied with something unexpected — she asked if Marisa and Leslie could also be interviewed.
“The three of work so closely together, it would feel funny for me to be in the spotlight without giving them recognition where it is due,” Mack says.
Although details are under wraps for the time being, Mack says she hopes the 2017 O-week will have an event that every incoming student can identify with.
“We’ll have a lot of diverse programming, hopefully something for every single student,” Mack says. “Whether that’s through faculty day, through residence or through a night concert. My hope is that students can find their niche throughout O-Week.”
One big change incoming frosh can look forward to during O-Week is the pilot of Orientation Serves Day which is replacing Shine Day. Each O-Week, frosh and their sophs participate in a charity day, raising money from worthy causes. For years, the day focused entirely on Shinerama — a charity that raises money for cystic fibrosis research, but this year students will work with a variety of charities in the London community. Mack hopes the day will show London what students have to offer while also showing students what London has to offer.
“I think it will be the start of a really great relationship between students and the city, that’s probably what I’m most excited about,” Mack says.
With Mack’s ability to overcome even a bat bite, expectations for O-Week 2017 should be high.