As part of my work on the Student Support and Services Task Force, I am investigating our current New Student Orientation (NSO) process. More specifically, are the current orientations addressing student concerns and needs, and how can we do a better job disseminating critical support services while preparing them for the academic rigor of being college students?
Dr. Eduardo Martí, former President at Queensborough Community College, NY, in addressing students during the Fall 2008 new student orientation stated, “Because we’re an open admissions college…it is fraudulent for us to just throw you in the pool and see if you can sink or you can swim. It is imperative that an open admission institution pays close attention to ensuring that you have the support services that are necessary for you to survive.” (http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/tigermedia/detailView.aspx?MediaID=770&CategoryID=3). New student orientation is the vehicle to best communicate those services, in addition to exposing students to issues that go beyond the classroom.
In researching effective NSO programs at other institutions, in varied discussions with colleagues and students, and in reviewing the Foundation of Excellence recommendations, I’m discovering that orientation has to go beyond simply offering students basic contact information and history of the college, but offer richer content and opportunity for discussion on such issues as; career exploration and planning, transferring to 4-year colleges, obligations of accepting financial aid (for example, how is financial aid affected when a student withdraws from an institution or when a student drops a course), what it means to take developmental education courses, childcare services, issues affecting nontraditional, older students, how to use campus technology and software (Blackboard, My.ccc), prerequisites and requirements, and personal counseling services. Additionally, NSOs need to introduce students to deeper academic issues on topics like student learning outcomes, critical thinking and information competencies, global awareness, personal responsibility, code of conduct, and student professional development. In order to do all this, NSO needs to also be separate from the current registration process.
I’m investigating three models of orientation – half day, all-day convocation, and online – and developing recommendations on the most effective model. Regardless of what model is implemented, the key to a successful NSO is collaboration at the institutional level; where students, faculty, staff, and administrators work together to develop meaningful workshops and table talk discussions on relevant student concerns and issues. NSO should not replace the work that College Success Seminars and First-Year Experience programs do, but should be an effective bridge between where college recruitment ends and retention begins.
What are your thoughts? What issues/topics need to be addressed in NSOs? What NSO model do you think is most effective based on your understanding of your campus or your academic needs? We are currently developing campus student focus groups, through campus SGA and VP Offices, to discuss this topic further. Please consider volunteering your time. Meanwhile, share your thoughts, concerns, and ideas!
– Stephanie Hong Owen, Student Support and Services Task Force