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[Fresh] Fresh@News: Orientation



 

Welcome to Fresh@News, Villanova's e-mail newsletter for parents and friends of the Class of 2021! 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 First and Second Year Initiatives, who coordinates the New Student Orientation Program.

Fresh@news: How was the 4-day Orientation experience this year? 

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.

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, 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 the Villanova community is all about.    

Other helpful workshops and fun moments for our students include skits on various campus resources and typical concerns, opportunities to find connections with other orientation groups, as well as a wonderful candlelight Commissioning Ceremony. A fun video is produced by our VTV crew highlighting the program.  

Fresh@news: So how does the University help those nervous young people on Saturday become the confident new students of Tuesday night?

A.D-C: New student orientation is really about four things: 1) we try to deal with some of the concerns and questions that the students have; 2) we try to introduce them to the services that will be supporting them, both within and outside of the classroom; 3) we create a peer support group for them; 4) we connect them with 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 the students navigate making the best decision for their situation. 

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 during Orientation, introducing them to the many support functions here at Villanova. One of the most important resources is our 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 the 2017 One Book selection, Acts of Faith, as well as general 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 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.  We also want students to know some of the resources that we hope they won't need right away but are good to know about before they need it, 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 too!

Fresh@news: You also mentioned the importance establishing a group of friends?

A.D-C: We find that our students form very close relationships 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 issues 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 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 after serving the new students in their role. One of the things that we stress is that Orientation isn’t over at the end of 4 days. 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 able to join us for Opening Day, you would have met the OC, but if you have questions or comments, you can also forward them to orientation@villanova.edu and we can forward your message to your child’s 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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