Orientation ’16: above and beyond

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Arriving freshmen find their way with the help of orientation leaders Markayla Johnson and Mary Baker. Photo courtesy of Mary Baker.

Classes may not have begun until Aug. 24, but the new school year kicked off to an early start when freshmen arrived on Friday Aug. 19 for orientation.
Preparations for the event began as early as Aug. 7, when Orientation Leader Coordinators (OLCs) arrived on campus.

This year’s OLCs included juniors Mary Hinze and Abigail Knapp.
Hinze oversaw Special Populations, which focused on events involving parents and faculty.

She hoped to involve faculty in move-in day and provide parents with a friendly face toward which they could direct questions throughout orientation.
Knapp oversaw Logistics, where her main goal was to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.

In addition to the OLCs, over 60 Orientation Leaders (OLs) arrived by Aug.15, nearly doubling the number from last year.

This may be due in part to Student Life’s goal for a higher number of OLs.

“We started receiving applications through Crusader Connect in October of 2015,” Assistant Director of Student Life Seth Oldham said. “Our target was 50 or so OLs and we reached our target.”

For Hinze, this increase in numbers was an advantage.

“Our goal this year was to really hone in on those personal connections with the freshmen and really welcome them into this community,” Hinze said.

Hinze liked that the number of OLs allowed for more personal time within small groups.

OL Eva Keuhler also felt that the small groups were generally a success.

“I think the students really appreciated having a lot of people helping them move in,” Keuhler said. “My small group responded pretty well to the meetings; they really got to know each other.”

However, the event felt overstaffed at times.

“My favorite event was actually the faculty breakfast. I felt like I was really able to do something,” Keuhler said. “I felt like at a lot of the other OL things I was just kind of standing around not doing anything.”

Hinze, Knapp and Keuhler all agree that they would keep the same number of OLs next year if it were up to them, but they would change the scheduling process.

This year, OLs could sign up for the events with which they wanted to help, which led to more OLs than needed at many events.

Knapp would change this next year by assigning people to events in advance, and perhaps even having two different sets of OLs, one for events and another for small groups.

“I think that it was a transition, because we almost doubled our numbers from last year, and with a transition there’s a little bit of lag time,” Hinze said. “At every event I was so grateful to have the number of people that we did. Whether or not they’re interacting specifically with students, having those people there and that manpower there really helps the campus become alive.”

Regardless of the extra help, freshmen and parents gained comfort and information from the orientation process.

Hinze spoke at an Advancement and Alumni Board event on Friday night for parents only. Her message was simple:

“UD works,” Hinze said.

“The Core and community commit to the students, and it’s worth it. The message of the night was very much a welcome into this community,” Hinze said, adding that she was very happy with the orientation as a whole.

Freshman Michelle McDaniel appreciated many of the sessions during orientation. She valued the honesty and openness of the students who spoke, and also how the sessions prepared her to face a different academic environment from what she experienced in high school.

One of McDaniel’s favorite activities was the Scavenger Hunt, which had freshmen not only find significant people and places on campus, but also perform an activity once they were there. She said this helped her to connect with the other students in her small group.

She enjoyed the small group sessions because they had activities that helped students get to know each other as well as time to ask questions.

McDaniel also felt that orientation offered something for everyone, whether it was the ’50s themed Founders’ Fest, or informational sessions about clubs and activities.

But her biggest takeaway from orientation was a sense of calm.

“This is a safe place where I know I can grow spiritually, academically and just as a person in general, and a good environment where I know people will support me,” McDaniel said. “To figure that out four days in through orientation I think is pretty amazing. [For the leaders] to show so profoundly, without using words, that this was somewhere that I could personally grow, showing me that through their actions and through their words and just being kind and open toward everyone that they met, I think that’s great.”

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