U creates first-year welcome week

by Heather L. Mueller

First-year University students’ summers will end earlier beginning in 2008.

Orientation & First-Year Programs is spearheading the creation of a “welcome week” for fall 2008 and is currently laying out the details.

Though specifics are uncertain, a welcome week could mean first-year students will move onto campus five days before the first day of classes to allow time to adjust, unpack, buy books and map their way around campus.

Welcome week activities might include a bus tour around Minneapolis, a note-taking class and late-night events to complement current orientation programs.

Jennifer Rachmaciej, assistant director of New Student Weekend and First-Year Leadership Programs, said that while current first-year programs, like the two-day, overnight, summer orientation, are effective, the University wants to do more to help students become members of the campus community.

“Usually the summer is kind of overwhelming and it’s pretty focused on classes and registering,” Rachmaciej said.

Over the next few months, the orientation department will consider funding and maneuver around logistical hurdles such as the Labor Day holiday, staffing, and campus-wide coordination.

Welcome week, along with the current orientation, will be required for first-year students.

First-year student Quinn Keller said that during move-in weekend there was little time to recall the academic resources and social opportunities presented to her during summer orientation.

“Your parents leave right away and then you only have two days to do everything,” she said. “I don’t think I got to know anyone for two weeks because I was just so focused on doing everything.”

Rachmaciej said the orientation department researched similar programs at other schools and plans to draw inspiration from their success.

“We’ll probably be taking bits and pieces from all of them,” she said.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s “Wisconsin Welcome” has been running strong for over 10 years said coordinator Kathy Kruse.

Although many of the events are long-standing traditions that help get students involved, such as the Fifth Quarter event where new students learn cheers at Camp Randall Stadium, they update events to meet the needs of each new class of first-years.

“We know from research that we’ve done that the two biggest fears of first-year students are getting good grades and meeting friends,” she said. “So we model around that.”

Political science first-year Kris Jones said the University’s two-day summer orientation gave him a taste of college life before moving in, but there were many details left out at summer orientation that could have been useful during the first weeks of classes.

“I would have definitely liked to get more socially involved,” he said. “And it would definitely be helpful to prepare all the first-years academically by walking them through a lot of online things – the library Web site, GopherMail or One Stop.”