Orientation promotes community involvement

BY BRIANNA ROBINSON ’16
Contributing Writer

A trip to Central Market, an exciting field day at Buchanan Park, and a class-wide community service project were just three of the changes made to this year’s First-year Orientation.

Like clockwork, First-year Orientation 2012 was held from Aug. 24 to Aug. 28, ending just one day shy of the first day of classes.

The house dons, deans, and orientation planning directors (OPDs) have been planning orientation since May. They met Mondays through Fridays to take the broad ideas they formulated at Beginnings and turn them into specific orientation events.

“[The deans] start to think: what are our goals?” said Suzanna Richter, associate dean and New College House prefect. “What do we want to get out of the five days of orientation? Then we want [first-year and transfer] students to branch out and meet individuals on their halls. Then, we want them to branch out and meet individuals in their house, and in other houses, and then we want to make sure they meet other individuals that are part of the F&M community.”

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One goal the deans have for this year’s new students is safety. They want to prevent risky behavior by informing students of the College’s policies and educating students on how they can remain safe.

The deans have also come up with a new slogan they want students to remember as they begin living in this new community. The acronym is A.W.A.R.E., which stands for acknowledging the differences they see in others, watching out for their peers, asking questions, giving respect, and showing empathy. Their hope is this moniker will help create an open dialogue amongst the students.

The deans and OPDs put in many hours trying to make this year’s orientation the best one yet. During this time, they were able to develop and execute their new ideas.

Showcasing the best aspects of F&M has always been a component of orientation, but this year’s OPDs strived to also display the Lancaster community, including the kinds of opportunities for entertainment this local community offers for F&M students, and how the students can give back to and help improve the city they border.

This year the planners implemented a community service component, sending students to help at farms, Millport Conservancy, and other local venues in order to better incorporate the Lancaster community into orientation.

It began as an abstract idea; the deans and OPDs had to figure out what a service component would entail. The team scoped out locations to do service, figured out the logistics of transportation and safety, and delegated tasks among the orientation planners.

The team consulted Chris Neuhaus ’13, the planning intern for the pre-orientation service program Putting it Together in the Community (PIT), for information on how to construct a program like this.

Another change made this year was the creation of smaller discussion sessions of about 40 students instead of trying to address the entire class at once. This change was made to address the lack of a personalized orientation experience for new students.

“One of the goals we really pushed for that wasn’t present in previous orientations was including activities that were loosely structured so students with all kinds of personalities and social inhibitions could feel comfortable,” said Caitlin Brust ’14, an OPD from Brooks College House.

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To prepare for both first-year and transfer students, the orientation planners kept in mind the different experiences both groups of students are coming from. For the transfer students, the goal is to have them bond with other students and get to know the F&M community, since they already know what college is like; the planners want transfers to feel confident they made a wise decision in coming to F&M.

“Transfer students have already gone through a lot of the things in orientation,” said Daniel Miller ’13, an OPD for New College House and a previous incoming transfer student. “So what’s different, and what you have to focus on with transfers, is that they’re trying to join a community where relationships have already been established, and it’s hard to do that. It’s hard to join a class that’s already had a year to bond together. So transfer orientation focuses a lot more on making the transfer students comfortable with other F&M students, but especially with the transfer group themselves.”

In addition, the orientation planners held a pizza dinner the night of Sunday, Aug. 19 to accomodate first-years who arrived to campus early. The students were ablel to meet with their HAs before the other students arrived.

With all the hard work and time put into planning orientation, the hope of the planners is that new students can take away something valuable from the five-day program.

“I’d like students to understand what an incredible opportunity they have here; that being at this school is unlike anything anybody else in your year is going to be doing at another school,” said Matt Haller ’14, an OPD for Ware College House. “It’s not going to be easy, but you’re going to grow so much. I’d love to see the students coming in this year take advantage of everything F&M has to offer so they can reach their full potential four years down the road.”

Questions? Email Brianna at brobins1@fandm.edu.

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