Orientation Experience Positive for First-Years

Orientation is one of the most important events in a first-year’s college experience. Orientation has many different purposes- to introduce the class of ’08 to Colgate traditions, to acclimate students settle to the rhythm of college life and to form a close bond among the incoming first-years. “[It’s an opportunity] to get their feet wet before classes,” junior link Bob Fenity said. “Without orientation…it would be very overwhelming” According to University President Rebecca Chopp, “The goal of orientation is to give new students an overview of all the school has to offer and to structure the first few days where no one knows anyone. It orients them until they can get their own navigational tools. Orientation involves a tremendous amount of preparation. Residential advisors, head residents and links all come in the summer to be trained.”Extensive preparation allows orientation to run smoothly. Talking with the first-years about a variety of issues and constructing activities that get the new students accustomed to life at Colgate involve a great deal of planning. “[For links], there was a five day training period,” Fenity said. “We went step by step over orientation. Part of training was how to get ourselves … involved with first year students for the whole year. [It was] an intense five days of us learning how to help [the first-years].”When Arrival Day came, cars were honking, students were cheering and Colgate banners were waving, as over 700 first-year students arrived on campus to begin their Colgate experience.”My favorite day of the year is when first-years arrive,” Dean of Admissions Gary Ross said. “It’s a joy to meet the fabulous men and women who chose Colgate.”Upperclassmen involved with arrival day felt similarly.”Arrival day is probably the main reason I’m a LINK,” Junior Class President Preston Burnes said. “It’s just such an exciting day to be at Colgate because there’s just so much emotion and excitement on campus and just being around that is enough to make all the time we put into it worthwhile.”The excitement on campus last Thursday was contagious. Even the first-years could sense the welcoming atmosphere as they drove down College Street and onto Whitnall Field. “[It] seemed like they had a lot of school spirit, they were very excited about Colgate,” first-year Brandon Lansche said. “It made me feel like I had come to a good place,” First-year Jaime Gilbert agreed. “That really made me feel that people were excited to have us here…it was a nice way to welcome people in,” This year’s orientation activities spanned from serious lectures on diversity, to icebreakers on the quad to bond-building events such as Casino Night and comedian David J. Burnes, who returned for his third orientation. “[It] kept me busy so I wouldn’t keep thinking about how I was away from home,” first-year Soumya Venkatesh said.Of all the activities, the presentation by Dr. Maura Cullen and In Your Company, had the most lasting effect ton first-years. Both addressed the topic of toleration, diversity and acceptance in the Colgate community, challenging students to look at things from a new perspective. “[Cullen] really helped me look at things in a different way,” Gilbert saidLansche learned valuable lessons from the speaker as well. “Colgate is a place that wants you to be part of the community, no matter what your situation, no matter if you agree with any of those people or not,” he said.Burnes understands the importance of including both events in the orientation agenda. “I think that In Your Company, combined with the Maura Cullen kind of go together,” Burnes said. “Speeches about diversity and sort of evaluating alternative thought on campus and things like that. I think, for one, that it opens people’s minds up a bit, but also, without the Link group really knowing it, opens the Link group up to each other in allowing them to sort of talk candidly and discuss things as a group for the first time. I’m a firm believer in the fact that Orientation is really a necessary step in order to be successful in college. I think definitely without it, it would take students a month or so to get to the same point where they’re able to be after three days.”Orientation proved to be a useful and some-what enjoyable experience for first-years. While annoying and exhausting at times, the program addressed important issues and prepared students for life at Colgate. “I think the evidence is that I didn’t know anybody when I came here, and now I’ve already got a group of friends that I feel comfortable going down to Frank with or whatever,” Lansche said.