Freshman student orientation to change from two-day format

By Caroline Kim

For 15 years, new students attended the University’s orientation program for two days during the summer. However, starting next year, freshmen orientation will involve a four-part series, lasting half a year.

Rhonda Kirts, assistant dean of students, said next year there will be four first-year orientation sessions: spring, summer and two in the fall.

The previous orientation program offered both parents and students a two-day event, Kirts said. Next year’s freshmen will view an online tutorial in the spring that will prepare them for registration in the summer, she said. The tutorial will discuss aspects such as general education requirements, course information and how to use the Banner system.

In the summer, orientation will only last one day. Kirts said the focus of this one-day event will be summer registration instead of summer orientation.

Students will have 27 different summer orientation days to choose from, ranging from May 31 to July 13, 2005. Transfer students can choose a date in the first week, and freshmen can choose from the rest of the dates. Students who cannot attend the earlier sessions can attend one of the few days in August.

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    Vincar Patel, freshman in LAS, said he thought the information sessions during his orientation were productive under the old system but other aspects of the two-day orientation were not as beneficial.

    “I think (the change) is going to be positive because if students know (about classes) before they come to orientation they’ll be better prepared … A lot of people wasted a lot of time thinking of what classes to take during orientation,” he said.

    Another change for summer orientation is that online placement testing will replace in-person testing, said Diana Steele, coordinator of placement proficiency and testing. For the last two years, placement tests for chemistry and foreign languages occurred during the summer orientation. The University then used ACT English and math scores for placement instead, Steele said.

    “One advantage of online testing is that an individual can log in when it is convenient for his or her personal schedule, rather than when it is convenient for test administrators,” Steele said.

    Steele also said that because the tests are only proficiency tests, students do not have an incentive to cheat. If they cheated, they would only get placed higher than their actual level, and the classes would be too difficult.

    “I’m excited about going online,” Steele said. “The tests themselves can be more dynamic and interactive.”

    In the fall, new students will arrive on campus Saturday instead of Sunday. They will participate in new student activities such as sessions on safety, diversity and resources at the University. The new community plunge program will also give students the chance to interact with the community by volunteering their service.

    The second fall session will occur throughout the fall semester with a program called University 101, during which each department or college will have a specific introductory class, said associate provost Ruth Watkins.

    “The basic purpose (of University 101) is to prepare or help students with the academic aspect of the transition from high school to college,” Watkins said.

    Some colleges already offer introductory courses like Applied, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences 100 and Engineering 100. Each course will vary in academic credit depending on the program of study and the college.

    Watkins said University 101 may not be available for every student in every program next fall because of the University’s volume and the large number of programs.

    Another change in the orientation program is that students who entered the University through the Educational Opportunities Program or the Presidential Award Program will attend a one-day orientation instead of two, said Michael Jeffries, director of the Office of Student Minority Affairs. Both programs aim to help under-represented students be academically successful at the University.

    The OMSA will add more Saturday events during their spring program and will conduct sessions during the one-day summer program, Jeffries said. He said that the key is to answer any questions, maintain communication, establish a relationship with the students to help them adjust and provide support for the remainder of their college experience.

    “Each and every student is important and we want them to feel that they are indeed wanted,” Jeffries said.

    Kirts also said that compared to other Big Ten schools, the University is one of the earliest starters and completers of orientation. Other Big Ten universities vary in their new student orientation programs. For instance, Purdue University also has a one-day summer orientation program, but Michigan State University uses two days.

    Kirts added that some universities are changing to an online-only orientation program, but she feels that it is important for students to come to campus because it adds a personal touch.

    “The purpose of the student orientations is to assure the successful transition to the University,” Kirts said.