Students beginning their higher education at Newman University already knew their 2020 fall semester would look and feel different in the midst of a national pandemic.
From virtual visits before applying to moving into residence halls donning masks, the newest Jets have already been experiencing changes to routine events.
The annual first-time student orientation, hosted by Student Life, was no exception. This year’s event took place virtually, with online sessions that included ice-breakers, welcome speeches from faculty and staff, informational panels and more.
Joseph Shepard, director of multicultural engagement and campus life, spearheaded the planning for the 2020 new student orientation. He was assisted by Dean of Students Christine Schneikart-Luebbe.
Together, the duo took on a brand new challenge of turning a traditional two-day in-person orientation event into a one-day virtual success.
Even though students were unable to interact in person, the virtual event presented some nice surprises. Shepard said the virtual ice breaker, which consisted of all the first-time students splitting into Zoom breakout rooms, inspired conversation and learning that was heartening.
“The virtual breakout rooms granted them the opportunity to get to know their peers a bit better and engage before stepping foot on campus,” said Shepard. “There were a series of questions that each member of the breakout room had to answer and one member of the group served as the facilitator. Then we all returned to the main room to report interesting findings or what they found most exciting about the conversation with their peers.”
There was a Q&A session prepared, during which time, a panel addressed some of the most common questions that first-time students have.
Four members of the Newman University Diversity Round Table (DRT) served on the panel: Jenny Duong, DRT president, Stephania Lopez, Jordan Ojile and Alyssa Pham.
The panel discussed some of the biggest challenges faced by students at Newman University and the best reward of being a student at Newman.
Shepard was excited to see the student body’s participation.
“It was exciting to see that virtuallymore students were willing to engage with each other. This platform also granted us more free range to pivot or shift if we needed to, for example allowing time for a student to play the guitar or a student sharing the excitement that she learned one of her peers had a hidden talent.
“I am excited to know that even virtually, our students had a good introduction to our campus.”
First-time students who attended the virtual orientation and completed an orientation feedback form received a free T-shirt as part of their welcome to campus. Additional T-shirts are available for purchase by all other students or staff and faculty for $12 each by visiting the Student Life office or emailing [email protected].