Orientation 2009: A New Beginning
The right time, the right message, the right way. That’s the mantra that Robert Mead-Colegrove, director of orientation, has been repeating since preparations began for the revamped first-year-student orientation.
Taking a page from the University of Chicago and some ivy-league colleges, Buffalo State will hold a single orientation session next week for all first-year students. Although students living on campus will move in earlier, the first formal event will be First-Year Convocation on Wednesday, August 26, at 9:00 a.m. in the Sports Arena.
“The idea is to give students a book-ends experience,” said Timothy Ecklund, associate vice president for campus life. “Students will start their education at Buffalo State in the same place where they will complete it during commencement ceremonies.”
Orientation’s new strategy is intended to provide students with necessary information when they need it: at the start of their college career. Because faculty members are crucial to getting the message across, academic departments have been invited to take part.
“We have some very exciting activities taking place,” said Mead-Colegrove.
For example, the Biology Department has designed a scavenger hunt for its first-year students. “We’re sending them to departmental facilities such as the greenhouse and the herbarium,” said Gregory Wadsworth, chair and associate professor. “The idea is to acquaint them with the building; plus, at each location, we will give them useful information, such as their advisers’ names.”
In the afternoon, students will choose from several workshops, each customized for a particular concentration within the major. “Students interested in biotechnology will be able to isolate their own DNA,” said Wadsworth. “Other students will conduct sampling at the Great Lakes Center field station or go to Tifft Farm Nature Preserve.”
At Tifft Farm, students will work in teams to identify specified plants, animals, and ecological phenomena. “The point is that, as they study biology, they will begin to see the world in a new way,” said Daniel Potts, assistant professor.
“Every phase of orientation has been designed with intentionality and purpose,” said Mead-Colegrove. “We want to help students make a successful transition from high school to college academically, emotionally, and socially.” Ecklund explained that holding orientation right before the start of classes will help students connect more strongly to the campus, another aid to academic success.
The Communication Department hopes to deepen that emotional tie by explaining its four available majors to a relatively large group of about 120 students. In the morning, faculty members will clarify the focus of each major; the afternoon activities will give students a chance to do something related to their majors: interview upperclassmen, write a lead, or handle television equipment.
“We want each student to think, ‘I’m looking forward to this,’” said Ron Smith, professor and department chair. Smith will talk to parents about issues such as careers, scholarships, retention, and how the department interacts with parents.
In Campus House, students and their parents will enjoy a taste of the Hospitality and Tourism Department—literally.
“Right after convocation, our new students and their parents will come to Campus House,” said Rebecca Dowsey, lecturer and interim department chair. “A grad will give them a cooking demonstration, and everyone will have a taste.” In the afternoon, students who are active in department-related student organizations will show new students how getting involved is an easy way to make new friends and open up opportunities to attend academic conferences.
One of the college’s most popular majors, elementary education, will use a passport theme to introduce students to the department. With the help of current students, recent graduates, and members of student professional organizations such as the Association of Childhood Education International, first-year students and their parents will divide into 10 groups. Each group will spend 15 minutes at five different stations, each one corresponding to concentrations in the major.
“For example, the English language arts station may involve students in a reader’s theater,” said Leslie Day, a lecturer who is helping to coordinate the event.
In the afternoon, students will attend three sessions introducing them to the advisement process; different academic options such as tutoring, service learning, and student organizations; and the computer lab. “We want to make sure students can access Banner, Degree Navigator, and e-mail,” said Day. “At the conclusion, we want students to feel good about choosing Buffalo State.”
Mead-Colegrove and Ecklund have already proposed a presentation about the new approach to orientation to the National Orientation Directors Association. “The campus collaboration has been phenomenal,” said Mead-Colegrove. “We are looking forward to providing our first-year students with the tools they need to persevere and graduate.”