University shifts orientation focus to academics

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With two months until the class of 2016 begins arriving on campus to register for their freshman classes, University officials announced Monday a significant shift toward focus on academics for undergraduate orientation this summer.

University President William Powers Jr. said the increasing emphasis on academics will include making sure students know different pathways to graduation, to reduce the number of students who take more than four years to graduate. No specific programs have been finalized.

“Any time you are on a journey you have to actually sit down and think ‘Were is it I want to go?’” Powers said. “Look at the map and think, ‘OK, so if I want to get to Boston there are a number of ways to get there, but I ought to start out heading out somewhere Northeast.’ You have a lot of students who get to their sophomore year and will report, ‘I started west on I-10, rather than northeast. So we are trying to get people off to a good start [so they] think about what these pathways are.”

Powers said graduating in four years is something parents expect, and without doing so students and parents spend more on tuition, living expenses, and face the additional cost of lost income caused by late entry into the workforce.

Powers said new students will still be able to experience the richness and diversity of opportunities for campus involvement as well as learning the ins and outs of living on their own while becoming oriented.

“What goes on outside the classroom is a major part of what I call the overall education of students, whether they are working for The Daily Texan, or Student Government or a political religious student organization,” Powers said. “That’s a very important part of being integrated onto the campus. It doesn’t mean all that needs to be done in the first three or four days at orientation. It’s not that these other things aren’t important, it’s just a question of when to introduce them.”

Marc Musick, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, has been assigned to oversee the office of New Student Services to implement changes to orientation that emphasize academics and improving graduation rates. Musick said while no specific programs have been designed for orientation to emphasize academics, he remained optimistic the work would be done in time for orientation’s start in June.

“I have already had conversations with the New Student Services staff and others around the University about the new direction and have been impressed with everyone’s willingness to work together to succeed in this challenging endeavor,” Musick said. “Meeting the goals that the president put before the University will be difficult, but with the help of students, staff and faculty across the University, I’m convinced we can get there.”

Knowing how to best utilize resources to graduate on time is something Ashleigh Fuller, West Sabine High School senior and soon-to-be UT freshman, said she expects to learn during orientation.

“I don’t want to take extra unnecessary classes,” Fuller said. “I don’t want to waste time and money on something I don’t need, especially when I’m planning to get my undergraduate degree and then start a pharmacy degree.”