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Student Leadership Institute
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The Student Leadership Institute (SLI) invites your undergraduate student leaders to participate in a unique leadership opportunity at the NODA annual conference in Orlando.

What is the SLI?

The Student Leadership Institute is a highly interactive program for undergraduate student leaders that takes place on Monday and Tuesday during the NODA annual conference. It is designed for all undergraduate student leaders regardless if they are new or seasoned staff. Through large and small group discussion formats, your student leaders will have an opportunity to engage with each other and the SLI faculty on various topics of leadership and professional/personal development.

What will my student gain by attending?
The faculty for the SLI specifically focused on topics that would engage undergraduate students regardless of their experiences working with orientation/transition/retention programs. Students will have an opportunity to meet other students and work closely with the SLI faculty. Sessions will be interactive and students will be expected to share their experiences.

Students will also have the opportunity to present through the SLI. Please have students submit program proposals. The SLI faculty will review the proposals and select sessions to be presented during the institute on day 2.


Who are the faculty?
The faculty includes professionals who have held NODA leadership positions on both the national and/or regional level. In addition, the faculty bring years of experience years of experience in the fields of orientation and higher education. Faculty members are chosen based on their experience and commitment to student leadership development.



Abbey Wolfman is the Director of Orientation & Family Connections at Northern Illinois University. In this role, she oversees orientation for new incoming students and their family members. Abbey also coordinates additional family programming throughout the academic year including Fall Family Welcome. Abbey graduated in 2004 with her masters’ degree from Western Illinois University in College Student Personnel. Abbey has been involved with NODA as the Illinois State Coordinator, Region V Coordinator, and served on numerous annual and regional conference committees. Fun fact about Abbey, she loves movies, books, and television shows about organized crime!

Tara Boyle currently serves the University of Houston as the Director, Retention and Graduation Initiatives (Houston, Texas). Before making her way into Higher Education, Tara worked as a Technical Writer creating user documentation for ExxonMobile, British Petroleum, Schlumberger and other oil and gas companies. Tara left the corporate world and completed her Master’s degree in the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education (SAAHE) Program at Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas). Tara served Texas A&M University professionally from 2004 to 2010, leaving her position in New Student Programs to take on a new role at the University Houston, hired specifically to rebuild prospective student and orientation programs. Tara served three years on the NODA Board of Directors, co-chaired a Regional Conference for NODA, has served on two NODAC committees and is currently the Network Coordination Chair for NODA. In her spare time Tara has developed a love for food and therefore a love for running and lives for quiet moments on the trails.


John Mark Day is the Director of the First Year Experience at Texas Christian University. In this role, John Mark oversees Orientation, Frog Camp, and other initiatives that provide students with the tools and connections they need to make a difference on campus and beyond. John Mark received his BA from TCU in religion and news-editorial journalism and has Master’s degrees from TCU and from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is currently working on his Doctorate of Education degree in Higher Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education. As a fulltime Student Affairs professional as well as a fulltime doctoral student, John Mark mostly spends his free time trying to get caught up on sleep and exploring all of the great restaurants and live music he can find in Fort Worth and Nashville.

Natalie Eskew is the Assistant Dean of Students at Arkansas State University – Jonesboro. In this role, Natalie oversees the Arkansas State University Student Activities Board and New Student Registration program. Natalie received a Master of Science degree in 2007 from Arkansas State University where she studied College Student Personnel Services. She has been involved in NODA since 2006 serving on numerous conference committees for her region and for the annual conference. She currently serves on the Annual Conference Advisory Committee for the association, and this is her second year as an SLI faculty member. When not working Natalie enjoys cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals, watching college football, travelling, and being outdoors.

Cordy Love is the Director of New Student Programs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  In this position, Cordy oversees orientation for all first- year and transfer students, Saluki Startup, Week of Welcome programs and a variety of programs designed to assist students in their transition and retention at SIUC.  Cordy graduated with a Master of Education degree in 2004 from Southern Illinois University where he studied Workforce Education and Human Development.  Having been involved with NODA since 2003, Cordy has held numerous leadership positions including serving on conference planning committees for regional and annual conferences, Illinois State Coordinator, and the National Multi- Ethnic Network Co-Chair.  Cordy also loves being outdoors and is very active in his community.

Sarah Merrill is the Assistant Director of New Student Programs at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.  Sarah coordinates freshman and transfer campus and online orientation programs.  In addition, she plans Destination Iowa State – ISU’s three day welcome week program which aids in the smooth transition for our newest Cyclones.  Sarah’s interest in orientation all began at Western Illinois University as an undergraduate Orientation Leader, where she went on to earn her Master’s Degree in College Student Personnel in 2004.  In addition to her work in New Student Programs, Sarah has also served as a Hall Director.  Highlights of Sarah’s involvement with NODA include co-chairing the 2010 Region V NODA Conference in her hometown of Moline, Illinois and attending Orientation Professionals Institute in 2008.  Outside of work, Sarah has made rooting for the Cyclones a family affair, sharing her passion with her husband, Kevin, who also works in student affairs and her sons, Owen and Colin – future classes of 2033 and 2035. 


Cimmeron O’Connor is the Assistant Director for the Office of Orientation Programs at Ohio University. In this role, Cimmeron collaborates with the director for all programmatic aspects of Bobcat Student Orientation and Transfer Student Orientation including student and parent programming, program logistics and daily program supervision. Over the years, Cimmeron has been involved with NODA serving on numerous regional conference committees. In March 2014, Cimmeron received an Outstanding New Professional Award from NODA. Cimmeron graduated from Ohio University earning a Master of Education in College Student Personnel in 2012. In her free time she enjoys running, reading and being outdoors.


Allison Ragon has served as the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of First-Year Experience at Lehigh University for the past ten years. Prior to her move to Pennsylvania, Allison was the Assistant Director of Residence Life at Elon University in North Carolina. Allison’s passion for higher education and transition blossomed during her undergraduate days where she spent three years as an Orientation Leader at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Post-graduation, Allison attended graduate school at Indiana University –Bloomington where she served as a hall director while earning her Master’s degree. Outside of work, Allison enjoys cycling, running, and landscaping as well as spending quality time with her dog, Bailey and husband, Tim.

How do I sign my student up?

A professional can sign their student up for SLI; the registration form is for the NODA Annual Conference, and if you would like your student to attend SLI remember to select that option in the sessions portion of the registration.

For additional information or questions, please contact, Abbey Wolfman (

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