Thursday, Jan. 25, Student Senate convened at a different location and time for their weekly meeting, holding the session at 5 p.m. in the Susquehanna Room. The reason for this change of pace was the meeting’s subject matter and presenter, Director of Student Transition Programs and Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships Professor Jean-Paul Benowitz.
At the beginning of the session, Benowitz explained his reasoning for the change in time and place: he wanted a more informal setting for the meeting where participation and discussion between him and the Student Senate representatives could occur.
After his brief introduction, Benowitz showed the representatives the updated Orientation page on Elizabethtown College’s website, which has the schedules for the January, June and Fall Orientation programs already uploaded. This comes as a change compared to previous years, when the schedules were only announced days before the program started.
By law, colleges are required to cover certain topics during orientation, but in Benowitz’s opinion, the College’s previous orientations were not very effective in covering those topics. The College attempted to remedy this issue numerous times, namely by giving certain offices control over planning orientation to see if their methods would yield different results. Previously, the Office of Student Life ran orientation. Then, that responsibility went to the Office of Admissions, and now, most recently, to the Office of Academic Affairs.
The previous orientation plans were scrapped entirely once the Office of Academic Affairs was given control over the program. Under Benowitz’s leadership, the Office of Academic Affairs created a new framework for orientation that prioritizes being welcoming and inclusive to new students. Orientation never truly had a purpose before, Benowitz claimed as he addressed Student Senate. With this new program, orientation has explicit goals, which are to promote the identity as an Etown student to new students and to welcome new students to the campus.
After giving an overview of the new orientation plans, Benowitz shared the results of the recent January Orientation, which reflected many of the program’s new goals.
Benowitz spoke about the importance of January Orientation, which transfer students and international students attend, and how it is essential for the College to welcome these new students and promote the Blue Jay identity. To welcome the students, faculty and staff all wore Etown shirts that were also given to the students.
As for the orientation topics themselves, Benowitz explained how each session would be shortened to approximately eight minutes and would be grouped together by purpose. Additionally, for January Orientation, resident assistants joined the new students so that there would be other students around the campus over the weekend.
Benowitz then moved on to explain the plans for the upcoming June Orientation. He first identified the issues that happened in the past, such as students and parents feeling overwhelmed by all the information thrown at them, as well as the ineffective setup in the Leffler Chapel and Performance Center leading to parents and students ignoring or glancing over some of the tables.
In the new June Orientation plans, students will only be receiving basic and essential information in their first visit so that they are not overwhelmed or confused. Additionally, the first sessions will focus on student life. Benowitz stressed that, unlike previous years, these sessions will not be presented like lectures but rather like conversations, encouraging student involvement and questions.
Benowitz explained Fall Orientation plans last, and they include a multitude of new traditions and events for the Class of 2022 to experience. There will be more opportunities for students to meet and interact with one another and have fun, with the events described by Benowitz as a cross between “Homecoming and a cruise ship.” This further contributed to the narrative that Benowitz and the other planners have stressed throughout the meeting: new students must feel welcomed and included on campus.
Once Benowitz finished outlining the plans for each orientation, he opened the floor for student questions. During this time, he said that Student Senate and other students on campus are encouraged to get involved. There is no limit to student engagement with orientation, and any and all suggestions are welcomed. Students are able to attend and participate in any way that they see fit.