Freshman Orientation unveils changes, new sessions

Nicole Stuessy

As thousands of new students come onto campus this summer, New Student Services will host new and revised sessions during orientation. 

During the three-day period, students will attend presentations on topics such as campus life and safety, learn about organizations and sign up for classes.

New Student Services begins planning orientation around a year in advance, and the group will make changes based off of student feedback they receive from surveys, said Kyle St. Nicholas, New Student Services assistant director. 

One change incoming and returning students can expect is the location of the organization fair, which will be held in the Student Activity Center instead of Speedway Mall, where it was in previous years, St. Nicholas said.

“We think that will lead to some better conversations between the students and the organizations, which is one of the major goals when they’re here at orientation,” St. Nicholas said.

The class registration time has also been moved to an earlier time on day three to streamline the end of orientation for students, St. Nicholas said.

“It’s just such a stressful time that we felt like if we could really move that up, then that would help to make (students) have a more positive end to their orientation experience,” St. Nicholas said. 

Last year, the UT Police Department increased its involvement with orientation during parent and student sessions. This year, they will also promote active shooter training, UTPD spokesperson Noelle Newton said.

“Some recurring themes from questions from parents last year were about active shooter training,” Newton said. “I love the opportunity for us to let students know we’re also going over our practices for active shooter response in the fall, and (New Student Services) will be sending every incoming student a link to a training video.”

The counseling and mental health presentation will now be integrated with the campus safety show in the evening, St. Nicholas said.

“The presentation is pretty directly related to the content of the campus safety show, and we feel like that it really combined better,” St. Nicholas said. “We previously had it connected with UTPD, but we thought that separating those things would be much more effective in terms of working with the students.”

An optional welcome session for first-generation students will also be offered at freshman and transfer orientations starting this summer.

“We just want to let them know that there is a community here to support them,” St. Nicholas said. “Our goal is to introduce them to the first generation resources that the University provides students, and there is also an opportunity for them to mix with other first-generation students.”

Other new sessions include a nontraditional student welcome at transfer orientations and a guide to off-campus housing for those unfamiliar with the area, St. Nicholas said.

Psychology junior Rachel Gonzalez said she wishes the info session for first-generation students existed when she went to freshman orientation.

“It’s really useful for them to be able to meet other first-gen students because I feel like, especially as an orientation adviser, something that we do is we just kind of represent UT for them,” Gonzalez said. “One of my identities is being a first-gen student, and just being able to share that identity with them so they know that they’re not alone is so important.”