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[Fresh] FRESH@NEWS: Orientation 2013



Welcome to Fresh@News, Villanova's e-mail newsletter for parents and friends of the Class of 2017. Over the year we will be sending you
occasional postings about activities at Villanova University that relate the class community. Instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe from this service are given at the end of this posting. 

Our first interview is with Alicia Dunphy-Culp, Director of New Student Orientation and Special Projects.

Fresh@news. Last week the Class of 2017 finished the four-day orientation program. How did it go?

Alicia Dunphy-Culp: We were very pleased with this year’s Orientation program. 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. It’s hard to believe they have been on campus for two weeks, but we hope the Class of 2017 had an amazing experience during Orientation and that they are ready to tackle their first semester!

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
as well. Then four days later, we end with our commissioning ceremony, where Fr. Peter Donohue, our University President, officially
blesses and 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?

A.D-C:  We had a great turn-out for our Parents Resource Fair and the information sessions were also well-attended. Many parents enjoyed the University Welcome and the Opening Mass as well.  These larger events help students and parents feel a part of the larger community and give them a glimpse of what Villanova community is all about.    

Another great moment for our students was on the final evening during a speech to the whole class by Dr. Richard Jackman, a retired professor of the Communications 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 that the students should start by re-examining their own lives, then building out from there to accomplish their dreams.

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, overwhelmingly, 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 help them 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 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. Now that they have been in classes for a week and a half, they will get into their own individual professors and create their own  routine.

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 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 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?

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 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, so they are also meeting people they may not meet along their academic path as well.

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 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 orientation@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 should encourage the student to resolve whatever problem has come up.

Each parent/student relationship will change during the college years and especially this first semester. Being a supportive parent can come in many forms and we know that each relationship with your son or daughter is unique.  Make sure to connect with your student—through email, phone calls, old-fashioned postal service, etc—and continue to support them through this sometimes tough transition.

If you have a general question, feel free to contact us (parents@villanova.edu) 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 www.parents.villanova.edu .

 

 

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