[Fresh] Repeat of Orientation Posting

John Immerwahr (john.immerwahr@villanova.edu)
Fri, 01 Sep 2000 18:21:05 -0400

This is a second copy of the interview on New Student Orientation which
many of you received earlier this week. We have had several hundred
members join Fresh@News since we sent out this posting and this repeat
is for their benefit. Long-time subscribers should just erase this.
(We promise that we won't do this again).

Our first interview is with Ms. Kelly Eastland, Director of New Student
Orientation.

Fresh@news. You have just finished the four-day orientation program
for the class of 2004. How did it go?

Ms. Kelly Eastland. We were really pleased. There were the usual
glitches and emergencies, but by the end of the four days I really felt
that the class had come together, ready to meet the challenges of the
next four years.

Fresh@news. What were some of the highlights?

K.E. For me, one of the highlights is the difference that we see over
the four days. It was very moving to see the students and their
parents saying good-bye after the picnic on the first day. While all of
the students were excited, I also saw a lot of apprehension and
nervousness as well. Then four days later, we end with the
commissioning ceremony, where Fr. Dobbin, our University President,
officially welcomes the class. As I looked around the pavilion, what I
saw was a large number of those same, rather apprehensive students of
four days ago, who were thinking to themselves, "I am ready for four
years of college. I am settled into my room, I have a great group of
friends, if I have problems, I know where to turn. I can do this."

Fresh@News. Any other highlights you want to mention?

K.E. Another high point of our final evening was a speech to the whole
class by Professor Jackman, of the Communication Department. I was
fortunate enough to have Professor Jackman as a teacher when I was a
student at Villanova so I knew what to expect. He is a terrific speaker,
as wise as he is funny. He told the new students that their four years
at Villanova would be a wonderful journey, and he suggested that they
pack light for the trip. He asked them to leave old baggage behind
(such as their fears and anxieties), and he asked them to pack seven
things: work, integrity, leadership, duty, curiosity, ambition, and
teamwork. After talking about each item for a few minutes, he told the
class that if they took the first letter of each of those words, they
would spell out "WILDCAT." His advice was all about taking charge of
their lives. "Don't wait for your ship to come in," he said, "swim out
to meet it."

Fresh@News. So how does it work? How do we help those nervous young
people on Thursday become the confident new students of Sunday night?

K.E. New student orientation is really about four things. On the one
hand, we try to deal with some of the concerns and questions that the
students have. Second, we try to introduce them to the services that
will be supporting them. Third we create a peer support group for them,
and, fourth, we give them an older student who can act as a mentor and
as a guide.

Fresh@News. Lets talk about some of those elements. What are some of
the concerns and questions that you see.

K.E. You might think that the primary concern of a new student would be
the academic work, and in the next few weeks that is going to be a big
issue for these students. But during the first days of college, the
concerns are more basic: where will I sleep? what will I eat, and with
whom? who will my friends be? Remember, many of our students have
never lived away from home (except for maybe a week or two at a camp),
and, indeed, many have never shared a room on a regular basis. Now they
are living miles from their homes (indeed many of our students are from
overseas), sharing a room with a complete stranger from a different
place with a different background. Many issues come up, and we try to
address them. For an overview of the four-day program, parents can
consult our web site at www.orientation.villanova.edu.

Fresh@News. You mentioned helping the students connect to services.
Can you say a bit more about that?

K.E. We really run the students all over campus, introducing them to
the many support functions here at Villanova. One of the most important
functions is that they start to get introduced to the faculty. There is
a session with the academic advisers, where students can establish a
relationship with the adviser and work out scheduling problems. Each
orientation group also has an informal session with a faculty member,
where they discuss academic life and expectations. This is a good
chance for the new students to meet a faculty member outside of class,
and start to know what college professors are like.

We also spend a lot of time just getting students familiar with the
mechanics of daily living. One big first step is what we call the
Wildcard. This plastic card (which actually has a computer chip right
on the card itself) serves as a meal card, a building key, a library
card, and, for many students, a banking system. Another big priority is
e-mail and computer issues. Our students come to Villanova very
computer savvy, and e-mail is their link to the world, so it is really
important for a student to get connected to the Internet. We also want
students to know some of the resources that we hope they won't need
right away, like Public Safety and the Health Center. We cover a lot
in the four days: we don't expect them to remember it all, but it will
at least let them know where to go if they do have problems. Orientation
isn't all work either. We always have some fun entertainment for the
students. This year we had a terrific hypnotist as the entertainment
for the last evening. It was an incredibly funny evening, and everyone
just enjoyed relaxing and acting silly after four days of hard work.

Fresh@News. You also mentioned the importance establishing a group of
friends?

K.E. We find that our students form very close relationships in freshman
year with roommates and people who live on the same hall. These
relationships are very important, and often enough some of these
students will stay together as friends and roommates throughout the four
years. But, just as in any other group, the community in the residence
hall can have its own problems and tensions. One of the strengths of
orientation is that the students also form very intense relationships
with a group of people who are NOT in their residence hall. So if things
aren't working out well in the hall, a student has a separate group of
friends to turn to. Even if things are just fine in the hall, it is
always good to have a wider network. We also work very hard to make sure
that the members of the orientation group are not all from the same
major or the same hometown.

Fresh@News. What about the Orientation Counselors? What is their role?

K.E. One of the nicest tributes to orientation is that so many of our
students apply to be Orientation Counselors in later years. I was an OC
myself when I was a student, and it really is a remarkable opportunity
for a student a few years down the road. The training is extremely
rigorous and the Orientation Counselors get a real sense of
accomplishment. One of the things that we stress is the Orientation
does not end on Sunday night. We expect the OC to maintain a
relationship with the new students throughout the year. It is
enormously useful for a first year student to have a "big
brother/sister" on campus, to whom he or she can turn for advice and
support over the year. Usually each OC has one or more reunions with
the group through the year, but the informal contacts are where the
magic really happens. The OC can often be a resource for parents as
well. If you were here for the beginning of orientation you would have
met the OC, but if you have questions or comments for the OC, you can
also forward them to me at Kelly.Eastland@Villanova.edu and I can
forward your message to the OC.

Fresh@News. What about you, how did you get involved in Orientation?

K.E. As I mentioned earlier, I was a Villanova student myself, and
through Orientation and some of the many other opportunities here I
became very much involved in Student Life. In my senior year I began to
realize that I wanted to make a career out of this work, so I went to
graduate school in Higher Education Administration. It was really a
dream come true to be able to return to Villanova to work with the
Student Life staff, both to apply some of what I had learned in graduate
school, and also to continue to work with the experienced members of our
staff here. It is a great career and this is a great job for me.

Fresh@News. Any other advice or suggestions for parents?

K.E. Just as we tell the OC staff that orientation doesn't end on
Sunday night, parents need to know that we are always available to
address questions or concerns. Obviously, college is a time of life
when students start to learn to work out their own issues, so parents
really should encourage the student to resolve whatever problem has come
up. But parents can always call the Student Life office at any time
(610/519 4200). If we can't answer your question, we can usually put
you in touch with someone who can.

--
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