Orientation. For some, it marks an exciting new chapter in life. For others, it’s a tooth-grinding formality. Regardless of background, all students, be it First Year or transfer, undergo the process. Except this year, the incoming Classes of 2022 had a few things changed for them.
Tanner Arnold, one of the two student Orientation Leaders, spoke to me a bit about the changes implemented this year. Tanner and his counterpart, Miranda Smith, spent nearly their entire summer on campus, preparing for this year’s batch of incoming First Years and transfer students. Miranda, as a transfer student herself, was able to provide a rare and useful perspective for the transfer students. Tanner, on the other hand, was “interested in introducing First Years to the resources that they would need, before they needed them.” This was the idea that gave rise to the additional online training that incoming students underwent.
When designing the revised Orientation weekend, Miranda and Tanner did their best to incorporate feedback from previous years. This feedback didn’t just come from students, but parents as well. An overall issue that Tanner wanted to address from previous years was “the way one person or one issue would dictate the conversation,” citing that in previous years, parent and student info sessions would take place in group settings, almost like lectures. The feedback indicated that so much information over such a short period of time was hard to take in, especially if a specific concern went unaddressed. So Miranda and Tanner worked to incorporate a round-robin style of spreading information. Each department would have a table, and people could move from resource to resource, all while receiving more individualized attention. Noah Ball, a Hobart sophomore and Orientation Mentor, said “that the organization by the Orientation staff was sound, but the representatives of some resource offices were ill-prepared, making it a less useful experience for the First Years in those particular sessions.”
However, according to Tanner, the largest change made to Orientation weekend was the addition of a new day. This new day was added to address the terror that strikes every First Year: registration day. Over the summer, incoming students chose just three courses, unlike the traditional four that had been chosen in the past. The deans then placed the incoming students into appropriate courses, while a fourth class was reserved to mimic the registration process on the new day of Orientation. Students underwent a mock registration in which they could meet with their advisors, select a class, and learn how to actually sign up for classes. This is in contrast to the past decade of orientations at HWS, where students ended up learning how to register for courses the week before registration, or whenever their advisor saw fit. For Tanner and Miranda, this was a big step in addressing not only the feedback from past students, but the needs of the current incoming class. According to Victoria Kata, a William Smith sophomore who served as an Orientation Mentor this year, “students are more excited to take the classes that they chose, they got a say in their classes the way previous years hadn’t.”
Tanner feels that “we were ready” for this year’s incoming class, but admits “what sounds good on paper is different in reality.” A common complaint from those who participated in this year’s Orientation was, as Noah said, “extending the pace that they were at for the extra day, that burnt them out.” However, Noah added, “it allowed for us to add a lot of activities that weren’t here last year.” In light of the varied reactions from the First Years and Orientation staff, Tanner has said that “We were the test year for a lot of it, and we knew that going into it. We didn’t let it deter us when things went wrong. I like to think we did good job.” Noah said that “this year had to happen in order for future years to improve.”
Yet, as Tanner himself said, “it doesn’t happen with one person, it’s everyone that worked on it all summer.” The Orientation Team from this year worked tirelessly for the incoming class, and is in the process of “learning what we can and can’t control.” Noah sums it up in saying, “As much as we can do to excite them and make it a positive weekend, the end result is a direct product of the attitude they went into it with.”