Welcome to Fresh@News, Villanova's e-mail newsletter for parents
Our first interview is with Alicia Dunphy-Culp, Director of New Student Orientation.
Fresh@news. You have just finished the four-day orientation program for the Class of 2013. How did it go?
Alicia Dunphy-Culp: We were very pleased with this year’s Orientation program. Of course, we had to deal with some pretty high heat and humidity throughout the 4 day program. But the students really seemed to enjoy themselves and come together within their Orientation Groups as well as a within their class community, ready to start a new academic year.
Fresh@news: What were some of the highlights?
A.D-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
Fresh@news: Any other highlights you want to mention?
A.D-C: In addition to the programs for parents on Thursday (the Parents Resource Fair and optional information sessions), 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 parents.
Another great moment for our students was on
the final evening during a speech to the whole class by Mr. Richard Jackman, a
retired professor of the Communication Department. He is a terrific
speaker, as wise as he is funny. One of the things he said was, "If you
take up cross-country skiing, start with a small country." Then he
explained that what he meant was
Fresh@news: So how does the University help those nervous young people on Thursday become the confident new students of Sunday night?
A.D-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, both within and outside of the classroom. 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: Let’s talk about some of those elements. What are some of the concerns and questions?
A.D-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, 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.
Fresh@news: You mentioned helping the students connect to services and resources. Can you say a bit more about that?
A.D-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 advisors, where students can establish a relationship
with the advisor and work out scheduling problems. Each
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 identification card serves as a meal
card, a building key, a library card, their fitness center access card, their
card for our laundry system 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
Fresh@news: You also mentioned the importance establishing a group of friends?
A.D-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
Fresh@news: What about the Orientation Counselors? What is their role?
A.D-C: One of the nicest tributes to the orientation program is that so many of our students apply to be Orientation Counselors in later years. It really is a remarkable opportunity for a student a few years down the road to be able to give back to a group of new Villanovans. 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 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 parents@Villanova.edu and we can forward your message to the OC.
Fresh@news: Any other advice or suggestions for parents?
A.D-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
If you have a general question, feel free to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and if we can't answer your question, we can put you in touch with someone who can. Parents should also check in with the Villanova web site, especially the Parents page at ww.parents.villanova.edu.
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