The University will welcome 1200 students in the summer’s first orientation session on June 6 with a redesigned program made to help increase four-year graduation rates.
In February, the University set a goal of a 70 percent four-year graduation rate by 2016 in a document released by the Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates. To help meet this goal, Kyle Clark, assistant director of New Student Services, said new programs were added to educate students about registration and college life.
“If you want to be able to affect change on the University campus, it’s going to be important to start with your freshman,” said David Laude, who UT President William Powers Jr. appointed senior vice provost of enrollment and graduation management in May. He said orientation was an important part of increasing the percentage of four-year graduates from the current 51 percent.
In prior orientations, students would attend a two-and-a-half hour meeting with their college. Under the redesigned orientation, Clark said that meeting will now last four hours.
“Students are going to get more time to make an academic plan to study, understanding the resources that are available and having more of a chance with college advisers to ask more questions,” Clark said.
He said this meeting will help students get a better feel of what is expected of students when they get on campus in the fall.
“I hope it is not too long,” said Samantha Ketterer, who is attending the first session of orientation this week. “But graduating in four years is really important to me, so if they need four hours I’m fine with that.”
Along with the longer meetings, Clark said there will also be academically-focused mandatory meetings students have to attend. The Sanger Learning Center will host a meeting about the transition of high school to college, while Bevonomics will present information about financial navigation.
Clark said New Student Services is getting students ready before they even get on campus. Along with the four-hour meeting, Clark said students are being asked to complete online modules before arriving at orientation. These online modules will help students understand how to register for classes and learn more about the core curriculum.
“Because we have such a tight schedule, our goal and our hope is they have a better understanding about things so they’re not overwhelmed,” Clark said.
Ketterer, who has started working on the modules, said while some of the lessons seem self-explanatory, others seem useful.
“A lot of them are helpful because you do need to know exactly what you’re doing,” Ketterer said. “But no matter how much online training you get, a lot of it you’re going to have to learn on your own either with an adviser or on your own.”
Along with the goal to increase four-year graduation rates, Clark said there is another challenge at this year’s orientation: The incoming freshman class is expected to be approximately 8000 students. While the University only has estimates of this figure, Clark said the class size will have 800 to 1000 more students than 2011.
“I anticipate there will be some kind of troubleshooting we will have to go through the first couple of weeks, but I think the advising staff and the colleges’ staff are ready to take it on,” Clark said.
Laude also said the larger class could pose a challenge, but he’s ready to face it.
“The fact that you have a larger number of students that you have to process through the University is going to increase the challenge for being able to meet those sort of targets,” Laude said. “But you deal with the hand that is dealt to you, and as long as you look at each student one at a time and you make it a point to create structure necessary for each of those students to be successful, then you’re going to be able to get to the goals that you want.”