First-years add new class to schedule

First-years attend weekly extended orientation meetings through the majority of their first semester


Peer Counselors Joelle Simeu, ’20, and Christopher Watts, ’21, lead a wellness check-in exercise. Photo by Laura Calhoun, ’20.

Laura Calhoun

All first-year students will now get a taste of Orientation Week throughout the entirety of fall semester, as they are required to attend regular orientation sessions through December.

Community and Citizenship, the title of extended orientation for the Class of 2022, meets almost weekly in Commons 345. Students signed up for section times online after the drop-add period ended for regular courses and class schedules were finalized.

Jason Rodocker, associate dean of students and dean of First-Year Experience, said the number of extended orientation sessions is still consistent with previous years. The only change, he said, is the organization of the sessions. While students used to attend extended orientation with members of their hall, they are now grouped up with other students who select the same time slot.

Rodocker said going to a classroom setting for extended orientation is “more clear” and “more consistent.”

“We were hopeful that it would give it the emphasis that we believe it should have,” he added.

Crawford Humphreys, ‘22, said members of his class were confused when they heard about the mandatory sessions.

“We thought our commitment was done after O-Week,” Humphreys said. “It came out of left field for a lot of kids.”

Rodocker said first-year students were notified of the change in the Class of 2022 New Student Guide Book. While the guide book does list some mandatory orientation sessions, it does not list all of them, and the classroom setting of extended orientation is not specified. Instead, only the hall-based extended orientation from previous years is outlined. Rodocker said he clarified these issues in an email during O-Week.

Though students are required to meet nine times during fall term for extended orientation, they do not receive course credit for their attendance. Rodocker said creating a mandatory first-year orientation seminar for credit has been considered for “over a decade.”

“There’s a faculty committee that would have to decide it was credit worthy,” Rodocker said. “It’s something we’re investigating currently.”

Each session is led by a variety of topic-specific students and staff. To provide more consistency, 24 upper-division students were chosen as section leaders who introduce the weekly topic and take attendance.

Emma Ernst, ‘20, serves as a section leader and said she believes the more formalized extended orientation sessions are helpful to first-year students.

“By having that steady location and steady face in the room, I think it allows students to connect to the material more,” Ernst said. “It makes the unit seem more cohesive.”

Notable additions to the extended orientation schedule include an added “Diversity, Inclusion and Community” training and two sessions with the Career and Professional Development Office.

Rodocker said the session topics are in line with the university’s new strategic plan and warrant discussion past O-Week.

First-year students participate in a wellness check-in exercise during the “Transitions” extended orientation session. Photo by Laura Calhoun, ’20.

“We think very intentionally about the timing of things,” Rodocker said. “There are some things where you need to experience the community and the issue before you can fully have a conversation.”

The first extended orientation meeting focused on academic integrity and was led by a member of the Executive Committee. Humphreys said this meeting lasted under 30 minutes, so the time commitment has been minimal so far.

“As we get into more complex stuff as the year progresses, I don’t know how long the meetings will go,” said Humphreys, adding how hour-long meetings would be more difficult to attend.

Rodocker said none of the sessions are scheduled to be longer than one hour.

Humphreys says he understands the benefits of extended orientation programming for some students but thinks the sessions should not be mandatory.

“It’s always a good option to have just a place for people that are looking for help,” Humphreys said. “But rounding up kids and saying ‘all first-years have to do this’ is kind of unnecessary.”

Rodocker said he believes the mandatory sessions are a key strength of the program.

“We are all part of this community and our actions all impact each other,” Rodocker said. “If it’s optional, it’s quite possible that the people who most need to hear the information will not be in the room.”