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Orientation leaders hope to make new students Rochester ready—virtually

July 10, 2020
2020 orientation leadersTune intoThe OL Show, a weekly panel discussion featuring the College's student orientation leaders—clockwise from top left: IfeOluwa Adefope '21, Brendon Tran '22, Tsion Eshetu '22, Waleed Nadeem '23, Prajita Shrestha '22, and Helena Schreder '22—who meet each week to talk discuss orientation for incoming and transfer students.
In an age of physical distancing, how do you get to know your classmates and your University? You fire up Zoom.

The College’s six student orientation leaders were brainstorming outside Anderson Tower last month, trying to find the best way to connect with incoming students this summer.

IfeOluwa Adefope ’21, an international relations major from Lagos, Nigeria, suggested an online talk show.

“We didn’t take him seriously at first,” says Prajita Shrestha ’22. “But the whole team came together to nurture and shape it into what it is.”

The result is The OL Show, a virtual panel discussion featuring the orientation leaders discussing topics important to new students—those in the Class of 2024 and those who are transferring to Rochester.

Plans for fall 2020

Stay up to date with the University’s plans for campus operations and activities this fall.

Produced via Zoom, the show streams live each Thursday on the orientation Facebook page. The show typically airs from 11 a.m. to noon Eastern time.

“It’s a chance to have fun with the incoming class while also telling them what real life is like here at the University,” Adefope says. “We discuss things like mental health, what to do for fun on campus, and the culture shock of coming to college as both a domestic and international student.”

The OL Show is just one of the creative ways the orientation staff in the College and at the Eastman School of Music have been communicating virtually with first-year students and transfers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the University of Rochester typically starts communicating with incoming undergraduates during the summer, this was the first time that almost all of the programming had to be thought of as virtual activities instead of gearing up for several days of in-person events.

“Given the state of the world and how so many are working remotely, it’s been an interesting transition—but nothing we’re not ready for,” says Crystal Cusimano-Figueroa, the College’s senior director of orientation. “We’re grateful for all the offices who worked with us. We’ve moved over 50 sessions online in just over a month and half. It’s been lot of work, but we’ve pulled it off fairly well.”

At the Eastman School of Music, multiple offices have been working together to produce a virtual orientation program for incoming students that includes weekly orientation guide videos, online campus tours, game nights, music class placements, and family orientation sessions. The school’s social media team has been providing virtual welcomes to members of the class on Instagram and other social outlets.

The pandemic has necessitated other changes as well. All first-year and transfer students are asked to complete a checklist before the fall semester begins. Items on the list range from completing a COVID-19 safety training module and viewing an academic honesty webinar to uploading a campus ID photo and registering for a virtual welcome celebration, where they can connect with current students, parents and alumni in a series of online sessions.

New students also must complete an online academic honesty tutorial (accessible through Blackboard) by August 9 and register for fall courses remotely.

At the College, each orientation leader has been assigned a cohort of 200 to 225 incoming students, and they communicate via email each week. International students have an extra student mentor working with them in addition to their orientation leader.

Adefope, one of four international students on the orientation leaders’ staff, says The OL Show is “a chance to have fun with incoming students while telling them what real life is like at the University of Rochester.” The students plan to run it each week until the fall semester begins in late August.

Shrestha, a business and public health double major from Kathmandu, says the orientation leaders are trying to maintain the communal values of the University through the talk show.

“Rochester has always put a tremendous amount of effort into making the campus feel like home,” she says. “There’s such a big emphasis on community. The purpose of the show was to continue this tradition despite the pandemic—to give the students a taste of what the University is like.”

The orientation staff has created a virtual orientation program that includes videos, webinars, class placements, and family orientation sessions. This includes several summer programs coordinated by Wilson Commons Student Activities and the orientation leaders. Tasty Tuesdays, where local food trucks visit campus during the summer, is now a virtual place where favorite home recipes are shared. There are also weekly movie nights, where students are invited to watch as group and chat about the movie, plus Trivia Nights and online Sudoku and word search puzzles.

The work is part of an effort to help students feel acclimated before classes start in the fall.

“There’s a lot of information for students to consume online,” Cusimano-Figueroa says. “They should pace themselves. Take care of the required things as soon as you can. We’ll make sure you are well prepared and Rochester ready.”

Read more


Orientation and First-Year Programs for the College

The online orientation program is designed to introduce both incoming students and their families to University academics and student life.

New student orientation at the Eastman School

Offices at Eastman work to plan new student orientation.

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