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Orientation advisor Dhruv Sehgal helps incoming freshman Matt Biagi with his fall-semester schedule in the Appalachian Collegiate Center.
Photo by Jonathan King
Orientation continues to evolve
August 11, 2014Tweet
Be engaged. Get to know faculty members by going to office hours. Take advantage of opportunities such as research and extracurricular activities.
These were just of the few of the suggestions from Newing College Faculty Master Mark Reisinger to incoming freshmen on how to become a successful student.
“Time management is extremely important,” Reisinger said. “You are responsible for your own learning.”
Reisinger, an associate professor of geography, spoke to new Harpur College students during the “Being a Successful Student” session at freshman orientation. His advice went beyond general ingredients for success: Reisinger also provided classroom tips that new students can use when classes start on Sept. 2.
“Why is nobody here?” Reisinger asked, pointing to empty front-row seats in Lecture Hall 1. “I am going to get to know people who sit up front. You are much more engaged when you sit in the front.”
The session also gave incoming students information about various campus resources designed to help them succeed. Representatives from the Dean of Students Office, Discovery Program and University Tutoring Services provided brief overviews to the students.
“People with a 3.9 or 4.0 go to tutoring,” said Lindsay Cox, an orientation advisor and tutor. “That seems backwards, but they get 3.9s and 4.0s because they go to tutoring. … One of the great things about the tutors is that we are undergraduates just like you. We’ve been through the classes before and know exactly what you are going through.”
The session was just one hour of a two-day orientation program aimed at acclimating students to their new home: Binghamton University. Eight programs were held over the summer for incoming freshmen and their families, while five were held for transfer students.
“The bottom line is finding the balance for the students and making them feel that the academic and social aspects of orientation are important pieces to their success as a Binghamton University student,” said Peter Nardone, assistant director of New Student Programs.
Besides “Being a Successful Student,” new or revamped 2014 sessions included a “Bearcats Basics” session that emphasized the importance of making healthy choices and a barbecue picnic at the Events Center in which students were able to get a photograph taken with Baxter the Bearcat.
“That was a cool spirit element,” New Student Programs Coordinator Betsy Staff said of the picnic. “They were able to take a memory home with them.”
Family members also benefited from sessions in which they could meet fellow families in the MarketPlace. A “Food, Money and Books” session helped families learn about campus banking, meals and the University Bookstore.
“Families want to know how to set up meal plans, buy books and how the buses work,” Nardone said. “We found those to be the prevalent questions that came from surveys and feedback.”
Nardone and Staff credited the 20 student advisors with the continued success of orientation. The orientation advisors handled groups of up to 25 incoming students and took part in extensive training as the number of orientation programs increased.
“They go through three to four weeks of training and they hear from every aspect of the University,” Staff said. “That’s how they can answer questions or know who to turn to for answers to questions.
“We look for all ranges (of advisors): freshmen through seniors,” Staff added. “We’re looking for the involved student and the not-as-involved student; the quiet student and the loud student.”
More orientation advisors, such as Cox, are participating in panels and sessions because incoming students and family members often want to hear the perspective of a current student on campus issues, Nardone said.
Looking to the future, Staff said she would like to see additional faculty involvement during orientation.
“We have fantastic faculty involvement now, but I know students would love to talk with more of them,” she said. “There are great faculty members out there doing research.”
Nardone said he would like orientation to someday include a “common reading.”
“It’s a program in which students read something over the summer by an author in higher education,” he said. “They then come to orientation and do some reflection on it. They have a second part during move-in in which they discuss (the book) with OAs or residential assistants. Some institutions have even brought in the author of the book for a speech, presentation or Q&A that engages the students.”
Whether it is attending conferences or seeking feedback from students and families, Nardone and Staff said they are always looking for ways to improve the orientation experience.
“We’re always trying to take in some ideas to incorporate and try to be on the ‘cutting edge’ with other institutions, while making Binghamton University stand out,” Nardone said. “We’ve been administering more surveys to assess the family programs, student programs and transfer programs. Determining where the needs are is how you find the perfect blend of what we can accomplish. I think we’re doing a good job.”