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[Fresh] Interview with Orientation

Welcome to Fresh@News, Villanova's e-mail newsletter for parents and friends of the class of 2011. Over the year we will be sending you occasional postings about activities at Villanova University that relate the class of 2011. Instructions on how to unsubscribe from this service are given at the end of this posting. Please feel free to open as many subscriptions as you please, by sending an email to Fresh@News.Villanova.Edu. The message should have just two words: subscribe fresh

Our first interview is with Sue Ciccone, Director of New Student Orientation.

Fresh@news. You have just finished the four-day orientation program for the class of 2011. How did it go?

Sue Ciccone. We were very pleased with this year’s Orientation program. Of course, there were the usual glitches and emergencies, but by the end of the four days, however, 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?

S.C.  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. Peter Donohue, 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?

S.C. There are a few highlights that I would like to mention. In addition to the programs for parents on Thursday (the Parents Resource Fair and optional information sessions on Thursday morning), the Parents’ Committee sponsored move-in barbecues throughout the campus on Wednesday. The barbecues were a great addition to a very hectic day, as parents and new students were able to enjoy something to eat while
taking a break from moving into the residence halls. WXVU 89.1, our campus radio station, also broadcast live during move-in on Wednesday. The students involved in the radio station were very pleased to share their
broadcast with the new Villanova families, while at the same time providing helpful information about the University. Overall, we were pleased with both the turnout and the overall positive response from

The highlight of Opening Day for me were the events that took place in the Grotto, which included the Opening Addresses and the Opening Mass. The addresses consisted of inspiring words from our President, Fr. Peter Donohue, OSA, our Academic Vice President, Dr. John Johannes, our Vice President of Student Life, Fr. John Stack, OSA, and finally words of wisdom from our Student Chairperson for Orientation 2007, Ryan O’Connor. The mass was a wonderful celebration of our Catholic and Augustinian traditions and a chance for us all to reflect amidst the hectic and overwhelming day.

We also had some amazing sessions throughout the four days that were presented to the new students by current students. These programs included a Diversity presentation, a Date Rape awareness workshop, a presentation on New Student Concerns, and an alcohol and drug awareness presentation and discussion. Our current student volunteers who present these programs put a great deal of work and energy into them and their results are quite impressive. The new students respond well to presentation and information given to them by their peers.

One of the most successful activities this year was the Saturday evening entertainment, where there were a number of optional activities with a “South of the Border” theme happening. The entertainment included a casino night, live band, arcade games and an outdoor movie. Dining Services put together a boardwalk full of traditional south of the border treats, which consisted of taquitos, pulled pork and non-alcoholic margaritas and much more! Overall it was a great opportunity for students to mingle and get to know one another.

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?

S.C. New student orientation is really about four things. First, 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?

S.C. 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? where 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?

S.C. 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 Student 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.

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

S.C. 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?

S.C. 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 that 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 susan.ciccone@Villanova.edu and I can forward your message to the OC.

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

S.C. 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 Dean of Students office at any time (610/519-4200) or the Orientation office (610/519/7208). If we can't answer your question, we can usually put you in touch with someone who can. Parents should also check in with the Villanova web site, especially the Parents page at www.parents.villanova.edu

Finally, I would ask parents to encourage their sons and daughters to get involved at Villanova. We have over 200 clubs and organizations on campus! Getting involved is one of the best ways students feel connected 
to Villanova. New students can get information about how to get involved on campus through the Student Development Office, or through their OC.