Among the many changes on campus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, another adjustment to be made was summer orientation. While incoming students and parents usually gather in Fulton Chapel and follow their orientation leaders around campus, the class of 2024’s orientation has gone virtual this summer.
In April, the university announced in a campus-wide email that summer activities and classes would be conducted online. Orientation leaders and faculty put together a hybrid of live Zoom sessions every Wednesday and Sunday with a new group of students each day, along with a library of content on Blackboard to help incoming freshmen and transfer students prepare for the upcoming semester.
In a usual orientation session, one student orientation leader would lead a small group of 10-15 students during the two-day session, answering questions and giving guidance.
“Overall, it is definitely hard to get acclimated with campus, but we send multiple resources on a Blackboard orientation course and show them where they can access maps of campus,” said Grace Temple, a junior journalism major and orientation leader.
Incoming freshman Regina Pham said that she felt like her orientation session was informative and that she was given access to many helpful resources.
“My orientation leader showed us a powerpoint talking about the gyms, libraries (and the) student union,” Pham said. She is also in a GroupMe with her orientation group and her orientation leader where she can ask questions.
One of the most important parts of orientation is learning how to register for fall classes and meeting with an academic advisor. This summer, incoming students are meeting with their advisors individually via Zoom.
“My advisor was very welcoming and thorough,” Pham said. “He also gave me a step-by-step tutorial for how to favorite courses and add them to my schedule. As for the actual course picking, it was a bit stressful trying to maneuver the system and make sure my classes fit properly.”
Martin Fisher, the associate director of admissions for orientation, praised the work of the student orientation leaders, who are all working remotely this summer.
“Most are at home, and some are working from their apartment in Oxford. They’ve been doing an amazing job,” Fisher said. “None of them signed up for this, but have been fully committed to serving the university and its incoming class of new students.”
Fisher also said the orientation leaders are paid a stipend for their work.
As some incoming students may not have a reliable internet connection, he said the orientation team is making accommodations.
“We know that not everyone’s life situation is the same right now, and we are working to accommodate students at every step of the process,” Fisher said. “Whether that is limited access to internet or working around a student’s work schedule, we are doing everything we can to support students individually.”
Orientation is a time when many students learn how to navigate campus, and Fisher said there are plans to help new students with that in the fall at the beginning of the semester.
“There is a group of us from Orientation, the Student Union, Student Housing and Campus Recreation that are looking at ways to enhance move-in and welcome week by incorporating more orientation-like activities,” Fisher said. “We are waiting on the reopening guidelines before making final plans, but definitely want to make that time special for new students.”