After months of peacefulness and inactivity around campus following the shift to online learning, the University finally welcomed students back last week for the start of Semester 2. On top of the large number of returning students, 500 new enrolments also stepped foot on campus for the first time, over what will be many years studying here. Welcomed across three jam-packed days of orientation, one man had the hectic task of leading the various teams of students and staff facilitating their introductory experience.
Mauricio Lozano wears many hats within the university: leader of UniCrew, interim leader of UniGuides, and most prominently, the organizational lead for Orientation. As the Student Engagement Coordinator, his connections with various initiatives around campus makes him a familiar face to many.
Indeed, if you have worked with Mauricio, it is difficult to mistake him. With his often beaming smile, thick Colombian accent, and lively sense of humour, he is an animated character, and a pleasant sight to those students who get the chance to work closely with him.
“It’s great having the student teams,” Mauricio tells me, as we sit down following a hectic orientation week. “You have the students talking to [new] students, and as a result you have something positive, because the students are talking from experience.”
This recent orientation week has been a massive challenge for him, as he has been forced to fly solo on what is usually a two-person effort. On top of this, the university’s plans have been changing on the fly due to the uncertainty of COVID-19.
“Since the end of April, we were planning an online orientation,” Mauricio admits. “Then in the middle of June, when everything was pretty much done, we hit Level One. We were then told we had to do a physical event.”
This involved scheduling each faculty’s session, including arranging for the speakers and organizing the Mihi whakatau (traditional welcome). “It was go-go-go, and non-stop.”
At the end of it however, Mauricio reflects positively on the experience. “It was a funny [orientation] and we learned a lot,” he concedes with a laugh. “But it was great, and I had really good support from everyone.”
Having the opportunity to connect and work with various student teams, Mauricio never downplays the role student leaders have in helping him achieve success in his role. For him, it is fulfilling to see the effort reciprocate in a rewarding experience for these students.
“It was really nice to see students, being UniGuides, sharing pictures like: ‘One year ago, I was coming to this university really new and scared, and now I’m on the other side, making the new students’ lives better during this transition’.”
Mauricio is no stranger to knowing how rewarding the experience is for a guide; he tells me how his own journey in pastoral care started a similar way. “I was passing my experience to new international students,” he tells me, “giving them tours, and welcoming them to Auckland.”
Arriving in New Zealand as an international student, Mauricio is able to empathize with how hard it is for them. “When I came here, I didn’t speak very good English,” he admits, although he adds in a joking manner that the fact still hasn’t changed since.
In his spare time, Mauricio is an active and fun-loving person. “I do a lot, because I’m really busy at work, so I like to think about something else when I’m out,” he says. His list of activities does impress too: from dabbling in stand-up comedy to competitive volleyball, and of course, admitting that he isn’t impartial to the occasional glass of wine with friends.
So now you know a little bit about Mauricio, make sure to say hi the next time you see him around campus, and let him know his effort in welcoming new students to our university whānau is well appreciated by all of us!