Orientation, face to face after three years



After three long years of Zoom meetings, UNI has finally been able to hold in-person orientation for incoming Panthers.


For the first time in three years, incoming panthers are face to face for new student orientation. In the fall of 2020 Orientation was moved to a virtual format following the COVID-19 crisis to ensure the safety of students, staff, and faculty. Orientation coordinator Joellen Hatchett, and program assistant Sam Pfab led a strong group of student orientation leaders as the program model made the transition back to in person summer 2022. 

Historically Orientation was a two-day program but was converted this year to a “one-day model”. Students were offered an optional overnight stay in Panther Village where they could participate in activities led by orientation leaders. Orientation consisted of a welcome to the university from both the orientation team and university leadership. Students were given information on the UNIfi academic requirements, department overviews that pertained to their major of interest, and the opportunity to meet one on one with an academic advisor giving each student 30 minutes sessions catered to their needs and fall class registration.

Jesús Lizárraga Estrada, Director of Student Success and Retention talked to the Northern Iowan about the reasoning behind the switch. 

“This was part of an access piece, not everyone can come the night before, family members might be working, there is a cost associated to it. We wanted to make sure that we provide that access for students, but also accommodate those students that did want to stay the night could do so at an affordable price in collaboration with the department of housing,” he said. 

Transfer student orientation was still held virtually as the needs of this student group are different. Sam Pfab, Student Success and Retention Program Assistant discussed handling Transfer Orientation in a new way. 

“I think it catered to the needs of transfer students because their needs do look different than a student that is coming straight from high school. All orientation for transfer students were virtual but we also had an option to attend a transfer transition day. We had two of those in-person throughout the summer. If students were seeking that more in-person connection than we had that available to them as well… There’s plenty of times where transfer students feel like that isn’t something that they need, and that’s okay. We don’t want to put them in that situation if it;s not going to be fruitful for them.

With the excitement from students and the orientation team about being back in person, new student orientation is moving forward with positive feedback from students and families and looking forward to welcoming future panthers. 

Joellen Hatchett, UNI Alumni was an orientation leader during her time in undergrad, and began working with orientation in her role in January 202 comments on her feeling towards the program. 

“It’s always nice to see people excited about UNI, I don’t know about you, but for me it’s exciting to see the genuine curiosity and excitement that students and family members have. Being able to talk with them one on one is what I really like about the in-person which you just don’t get in that zoom world,” she said.