New elements introduced to Orientation this year


Maria Cardona

Student Orientation leaders greeted students at the Aug. 29 Orientation during the welcoming ceremony at the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.  

By Campus Reporter

Changes made to the Orientation program are offering students a more valuable introduction experience this year.

More than 15 changes were made to this year’s Campus Orientation sessions, held June through September, according to an Aug. 24 email report sent to participants from Janeen Scott, former manager of the New Students Program Office who has since left the school.

Modifications include the creation of a pre-Orientation sign-up, development of a program for students who applied to the college as “undecided” and the transfer of communications with confirmed students from the New Students Programs office to Enrollment Management and Strategic Marketing & Communications, the 2016 report stated.

“We’ve always had students who have identified as either undecided or undeclared, but this year, we’ve offered that as a more visible option,” said Kari Sommers, associate dean of Student Life.

Sommers said improved communication makes sure experts are working to help students find where they are best suited.

This year, students and families will be in every session, instead of only allowing families to be present for the “Academic  Journey” and Student Financial Services ones, Sommers said.

Andrew Whatley, senior director of New Student Enrollment Services, said the college recognized the need for pre-class registration. He said it frees up space in the schedule for students to engage and connect more.

“It’s important to have a schedule, and it’s important to have the right schedule, but it is also important to meet people, faculty [and] fellow students and begin getting acclimated to the college,” Whatley said.

Whatley added that some of the Orientation team’s goals included having students leave Orientation with a schedule, confirm their major, set up a financial plan and learn about campus resources. He said it is important transfer students have a clear idea of how prior credits from another college fit into their Columbia degree plan.

Whatley said the 20 percent of students who do not complete pre-Orientation is a main concern. He said some students feel intimidated by pre-class registration at home and want to meet with a faculty advisor in person before setting up schedules.

According to data from the Office of Enrollment Management, the number of students who registered for at least one class has increased over three years. In 2014, the percentage of registered students was 74.2. In 2015, that figure rose to 77.5 percent, and then to 81.2 percent in 2016.

While Whatley and the Enrollment Management document both cite the 2014 percentage as 74.2, The Chronicle’s calculations indicate the number was to be 74.6 percent.

Senior Orientation leader and junior fashion studies major Ava Thommen said the schedule changed partly because students and parents complained about traveling around campus in hot summer weather. For this year’s Orientation, students and parents were in the same building for all sessions.

Thommen said that half of the students met with a faculty adviser to plan schedules. The other half participated in activities that correlate to their departments to better understand their majors.

“The campus Orientation Team will look at surveys given to students. They will also conduct a ‘non-matriculate’ survey for students who were admitted but did not attend the first day of class,” said Jeff Meece, associate vice president of Enrollment Management. Meece added that the college is ensuring it is serving students in the best way.

“Orientation has always been an absolutely critical component for the transition to Columbia for every new student,” Meece said. “It is that opportunity for students to start to really understand and know what Columbia has to offer for them.”