The orientation program for all first-year and transfer students experienced significant changes this year. The biggest change was the choice to drop summer orientation, which usually was held in the beginning of June. Another change was dropping the early immersion programs. Christine Krieger, Associate Director of the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) said that attendance at summer orientation had been low in recent previous years. Billy Daly ’16, one of two Orientation Committee (OC) co-chairs explained, “to offset that change, we had everyone come back a day early.”
Beginning orientation a day early gave students more time to get to know one another before classes started. Kiera McCarthy ’15, Chair of OC noted that this also gave students “extra time to settle into Goucher’s community…[and] help every student feel welcome.” Although early immersion had been a positive experience for students in previous years, it sometimes created a divide between students who had and who had not participated in early immersion once the actual orientation program started.
Goucher Connects, a daylong program during the Friday of orientation, gave students the opportunity to volunteer in Baltimore with their fellow classmates, the OC, and the Connections Peer Facilitators. Though the program did not intend to serve as a replacement for early immersion, Daly explained, “we [OC] wanted to give everyone a similar immersive experience and an opportunity to get hands-on…[and] take a break from orientation.” No other college in the Baltimore area does a program like this on such a large scale, which makes Goucher unique.
McCarthy added that Goucher Connects allowed for “peer facilitators and the new students an opportunity to get to know one another and the Baltimore community.” Annabeth Lucas ’16, another co-chair of OC, said that through Goucher Connects, the OC “hoped to create an experience that was much more fulfilling and memorable…than simply strolling the Inner Harbor.” This enabled students to see a specific aspect of the city, rather than just a tourist destination. Lindsay Johnson ’05, Associate Director of Community-Based Learning (CBL) articulated one of the goals: “connect first-year students to one another through collaborative work,” and that this was not just “a day of service.” Krieger, who coordinates the majority of the orientation program, said that Goucher Connects “made a huge impact on orientation,” and hopes to continue the program. Cass Freedland, Director of CBL, worked to create the partnerships with the organizations for Goucher Connects, and is planning to continue these partnerships throughout the academic year.
Saturday night, OC and Goucher Student Government (GSG) collaborated on a new social event, First Night in the Ath. Several clubs and organizations on campus sponsored interactive activities, giving first-year and transfer students a sampling of what opportunities there are at Goucher. In the past, one of the only social events at orientation was a dance, which did not appeal to everyone. Lucas said that this event was able to “create an environment for first-years [and transfers] to mingle,” where dancing was still an option. Daly, who was a key player in developing the event, said that instead of Taste of Towson, a previous orientation event, the OC and GSG wanted to give students “a taste of Goucher, and that’s why we wanted to work with a bunch of different clubs.” In the past, students’ first exposure to clubs was at club rush, which doesn’t “give you a chance to see what they [the clubs] do before you commit to at least getting emails from them,” Daly added.
McCarthy, Daly, and Lucas stayed on campus throughout the summer to plan the program with Krieger. McCarthy said that this included serving as a “liaison between the committee and Christine…[and] planning the Orientation Committee’s trainings.”
While there can be an overwhelming amount of information presented to first-year and transfer students at orientation, Daly explained that what he believes are the most important takeaways are not necessarily remembering all of the information, but being able to recognize the resources available on campus and “to identify some key people in each of those departments that they know they can go to.” Lucas elaborated on how orientation can serve several purposes for different people. “For some it is simply a way to meet new people…[and] for others it is an academic godsend as they meet with advisors, various departments…and staff.”
Anna Bloomfield ’18, “really enjoyed Goucher Connects because we got to make new friends and bond over how gross the compost was.” Three first-year students agreed that the more relaxed events were more fun than the more structured events because it gave them the opportunity to have conversations with people without being pressured to move onto another activity.
Looking forward, Daly would “love to continue and expand First Night in the Ath” as an orientation event. Though it is too early to say whether or not all of the changes that were made this year will stick, McCarthy said that something wonderful about orientation is that “we [OC] can easily get feedback from students and make changes as necessary.”