Orientation extended in response to students
Orientation, the pre-autumn-quarter introduction to the University for first-year students entering the College, has been extended from eight to 11 days. The program of social activities, placement tests and course registration will run this year from Wednesday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 1.
"The impetus to change the program was student feedback," said Jean Treese, Director of Orientation and Assistant Dean of Students in the College. "We're trying to do things that we hope will alleviate some of their frustrations and accommodate some of their requests."
Several new elements have been added to the Orientation schedule. "One significant advantage to expanding Orientation is that we can include activities that we've never had time to include before," Treese said. "Our programming will be much more interactive than it has been in the past, and I think students will find the pace of Orientation to be much more flexible and relaxing."
A new highlight for Orientation will be Playfair, a nationally based program designed to encourage community spirit and facilitate new relationships. The entire group of nearly 1,000 entering students will attend the activity, to be held at Henry Crown Field House three days into the Orientation schedule.
Entering students will participate in Playfair -- and most of the Orientation activities -- as members of 10-person teams led by Orientation Aides. Each team will be composed of students from various residence halls in order to broaden the base of people new students meet.
"One of our priorities is to provide students with opportunities to meet a variety of people," Treese said. "The Orientation teams and Playfair will introduce students to the University community, and we've added a service event that will introduce entering students to the larger community in which they are going to live."
Other new Orientation activities include a University of Chicago night for the entire University community at the Museum of Science and Industry, small dessert receptions for entering students, hosted by faculty members, and an increased number of downtown excursions. The mainstay events of Orientation in past years -- the Aims of Education address, Student Activities Night, the Off-Off-Campus show and the Saturday-night pizza party -- will remain in the new schedule.
"I'm very happy with the expanded Orientation program," said John Boyer, Dean of the College. "It's a comprehensive introduction into the College that I think students will both enjoy and benefit from."
In addition to exploring the social activities offered during Orientation, entering students will take placement tests and register for classes. While students have named the placement tests as the most stressful element of Orientation, "we couldn't do anything about that," Treese said with a laugh. A mathematics placement test is required for all first-years, and students can choose to take four other tests in foreign languages, the biological sciences, the physical sciences and calculus.
"The only way we could make the testing process easier was to reschedule activities that conflicted with the placement-test timetable," Treese said. "This year, because we'll have more time, students won't be torn between taking a test and looking into work-study placements or whatever else they're interested in. Now when students aren't in an exam, they have free time to get to know their classmates or explore Hyde Park and the rest of the city."
Another new element of Orientation will be an entirely revised approach to registration, Treese said.
"We will have the ability to enter a student's registration on-line from the computers in our offices," she explained. "Instead of a 15-minute appointment with the advisers and then back and forth to the Registrar's Office, students will meet with their advisers for half an hour, and they will know immediately whether a class is opened or closed They will know when they leave our offices which four classes they're in. And it won't be subject to change, unless they decide to change it themselves. We really do think it will be better."
While an 11-day program means more attention from Treese and her staff, Treese said she's happy to devote herself to the program.
"We have to carve this out of our time because it's important," Treese said. "New students have so many transitional issues to deal with when they come to college, and they have such diverse backgrounds. We want them to begin the year feeling comfortable with themselves, each other and the community, and we want them to know that there are many resources here, should they need them."
-- Carmen Marti