Freshmen Orientation makes changes to better acclimate students

Savana Dunning

Freshman Orientation is brimming with changes this summer in response to previous student survey requests for more engagement.

New Student Services added a seventh session to reduce the number of students at each orientation, in addition to two events that introduce incoming students to campus traditions and an "Ask Me!" campaign.

“New Student Services continually assesses the changing needs of the incoming students to UT Austin through student surveys and assessments, extensive work with our campus partners, our staff and Orientation Advisors,” Celena Mondie-Milner, the director of New Student Services, said in an email. “Our primary goal is to support their journey towards success on the Forty Acres.”

Desiree Alva, New Students Services associate director, said the extra session ensures there is enough room for students in Jester Residence Hall and space for all students to attend live show events.

“In the past, because we had so many students that would come for the sixth session, we had to separate out a college and they would have to watch a recorded version of the live show and the other students would all fit into Hogg (Auditorium),” Alva said. “Even though the assessment was the same from students at the live show and recorded show, we still wanted them to be with the rest of the students so that they were getting the same kind of experience.”

Two new programs, Longhorn Stampede and Traditions Fest, were designed by the Orientation Advisor Traditions Committee as a way for students to better transition to campus while making sure there is enough time for the evening activities.

Longhorn Stampede is a group campus tour where new students navigate their way around campus and enter commonly used buildings, such as the SAC and Gregory Gym, to learn about the resources housed there.

At Traditions Fest, booths scattered around Jester West Residence Hall’s Gallery of Texas Cultures showcase a variety of UT traditions. Students can bounce from booth to booth to learn everything from how the "Eyes of Texas" are upon them to the legend of the albino squirrel.

Traditions committee co-chair Katie Bridges said knowing these traditions helps students transition to campus.

“It creates this sense of belonging and it shows them what it actually means to be a Longhorn,” Bridges said. “It also gives them a chance to hear about what other Longhorns value here.”

Volunteers for the "Ask Me!" campaign don pinback metal buttons labeled "Ask Me!" — showing incoming freshman they can ask questions about campus.  

Melissa Porch, communications manager for New Student Services, said the campaign is an effort to make students and families feel more comfortable while on campus.

“We understand that coming to university from high school can be really daunting, so just having more people they know they can talk to, or just have someone say hi, we felt like was really important,” Porch said.