Welcome to campus, class of 2016.  After two weeks of classes, hopefully we are the last to greet you.  No matter how prestigious it is to have this welcome in print, you already received an extensive one from the Office of Residential Life and Titan Orientation Leader groups.

While this year’s orientation was much improved from years past, there is still, as always, some room for progress.

The first-years started off on the right foot on move-in day.  The whole process ran smoothly from start to finish and, because everything was shuttled in so quickly, new residents were able to unpack and unwind.

Perhaps the most noticeable change from last year was the open schedule afterwards.  Rather than force students into TOL meetings at 1 p.m., First-Years had the day to themselves – the New Student Convocation didn’t begin until 6:15 p.m. “I think the free time actually provided more time to socialize and make friends than the structured activities did,” first-year Ashton Moss said. Indeed, residents like Moss used this time to chat with their roommate, get to know neighbors, or check out the hall ping-pong table.

This relatively open schedule continued throughout the week. Interrupting the 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. activities, Turning Titan My Way gave students downtime to do whatever suited them – go to professors’ offices, go on tours or just sit around for a while.
They could explore campus at their own pace and students were able to breathe during already packed days.

Kudos to ORL for recognizing the need for a specialized position to handle orientation week.  Much of these improvements can be credited to Terrance Bond, Associate Director of Residential Life and newly appointed Director of First-Year Experiences.
Working closely with an Orientation sub-committee, Bond tweaked the schedule to streamline and liven the experience. “Our primary goal was to focus our programming efforts towards the primary needs of students … [and] finding a balance between essential activities and other activities of possible interest to students,” Bond said.

Of course, this being the first year for change, there are some improvements that can be made. First and foremost, the educational late-night programming left something to be desired, mostly the wasted evening back. While Mission Improvable is usually entertaining, Shots of Reality was not up to par. The event was meant to entertain students and provide insights into alcohol use.  It did neither. One way to remedy this would be to change the advertising.  Many went in expecting a fun, lighthearted show, not a lecture.  It wasn’t too surprising to see a group of guys walk out of Hansen fifteen minutes in.

Similarly, Sex Signals was underwhelming.  The performance touched on some important topics but was presented amateurishly. The energy was off throughout the night.  They began with a few passably funny, if cliché, jokes and asked the audience what they viewed to be a stereotypical college guy and girl. After that, though, things went way downhill. They weren’t able to recover after trying to force audience participation from a group that showed no enthusiasm. Their segment on sexual assault was informative and enlightening, but they made it downright uncomfortable when they tried to open up discussion.

What made matters worse was the unnecessary overlap of these optional programs with the big mandatory one, Real World 101. “Shots and Signals just seemed redundant, seeing as Real World 101 covered those topics,” first-year Nick Brennan said.  “And Real World 101 was able to do it in a more appropriate, more approachable way for college kids.”
A quick fix is to simply bring in social, not educational, events towards the beginning of the week and offer the educational programs during Turning Titan My Way.  That way, those who want to learn will.

This being the first year for Bond, Titan Orientation has potential for growth.  Unfortunately for him, he set the bar fairly high the first year around.