Freshman orientation is a memorable time in a college student’s career as they prepare for college life, meet friends and advisors and get acquainted with campus. The-still prevalent coronavirus pandemic has made it more challenging to give incoming freshmen that same orientation and welcome experience.
Although UNI’s summer orientation will once again be held virtually, orientation staff hope to give incoming students the best experience possible in their transition to UNI.
The decision to hold orientation virtually was made this January in order to give students an idea of what to prepare for.
Orientation Coordinator Joellen Hatchett acknowledged the difficulty of deciding to have orientation online again, but emphasized the importance of keeping students, their families and campus partners safe.
“It was not an easy decision. It was actually pretty hard because we do want students to have the best experience,” Hatchett said. “But we know that making sure the health of our students and our campus partners was really at the forefront of what we were doing, and we thought this was the best way for students to safely get the information that they need.”
Some changes and updates have been made from last year’s online orientation, including changes to the freshmen orientation portal.
“Overwhelmingly, the results we got from our surveys was that students really liked the individual orientation appointment session with their academic advisor,” Hatchett said. “We also want to make sure students get that information they need before their online orientation session. We know that we need to be providing a little bit more information for students so they might know what questions they have.”
Making connections with other students and advisors was another challenge with online orientation.
“I think we all have learned you make better connections when you are in person, so we wanted to have smaller groups this year so they could have time to interact and get to know their orientation leader,” Hatchett said. “We made sure that was still an integral part of the student experience, so they weren’t just doing task-y things.”
Although orientation will be virtual, events like UNI Now, a weeklong welcome program before the start of the fall semester, are planned to be held in person this fall, pending any changes in the state of the pandemic.
“We will be able to have fun games, be outside and get to know campus,” Hatchett said. “We are planning a lot of fun events that will also be educational in what UNI offers, but also help students get to know one another and get to see what being a Panther and living in Cedar Falls is all about.”
Twelve student orientation leaders have been hired for upcoming orientations and will be leading small group sessions throughout the summer to get connected with students.
“I’m hyped about it, and I know that student leaders are excited to welcome everyone back to campus,” Hatchett said.
If any students are passionate about UNI and want to welcome new Panthers into the campus community, Cat Crew members are still needed to lead the UNI Now program. For more information and the link to apply, visit success.uni.edu/cat-crew.