Orientation directors, advisers prepare for second virtual orientation

Payton Reeves

New Student Services is preparing for another virtual welcome this summer for incoming freshmen and transfer Longhorns.

After the pandemic forced orientation online last year less than 10 weeks out from graduation, some students who attended the virtual orientation said they did not form connections with other students or with UT the way they had hoped. This year, orientation organizers said the experience will be better by aiming to foster student connections and more of a connection to campus.

Orientation leaders said one of their top goals this year, aside from registering students for classes, is to try and replicate scenarios where connections between students would occur in person.

“One of the (ways) we felt students connected in orientation was your random roommate, and we’re trying to replicate that through a kind of a new program on Zoom,” said Kyle St. Nicholas, assistant director of New Student Services.

St. Nicholas said one program will include giving students a virtual tour of the dorm they will be living in and connecting the students with who else will be living in their building.

Business freshman Tess Rudic said virtual connection during orientation last year was much different from in-person connection.

“We did all follow each other on Instagram and keep in touch, but it’s definitely not the same,” Rudic said.

Finance freshman Quynh-Thy Dang said the student organization fair that took place during her orientation session could be improved this summer. St. Nicholas said the organization fair was held on Zoom with different links leading to different organizations’ presentations. Dang said this experience was somewhat chaotic and didn’t run smoothly.

“One big thing I’ve been excited for, ever since high school, was … tabling,” Dang said. “I definitely felt like I wasn’t exposed to as many organizations that I could have been if it wasn’t during a COVID semester.”

St. Nicholas said the organization fair has been challenging to recreate in the online format, but that he and others involved in creating the event have been working hard to improve this event by hosting the fair through HornsLink.

Madeline Salinas, a New Student Services leadership team member, said that although orientation preparation this year has still brought its own challenges, she is more confident in the event this summer.

“I am feeling a lot better this year than I was last year,” journalism sophomore Salinas said. “We’re really optimistic, we’re really excited and we’ve been working hard.”

Rudic said incoming students should put themselves out there and engage in activities and with others during their session.

“There is nothing to worry about,” Rudic said. “Take advantage of the resources they give you, and talk to whoever you can to make connections, because you never know, down the road in your freshman year or even your senior year and after you graduate, who you’ll want to reach out to.”