Orientation 101: new students learn where to go, what to know
Chatter in the large lecture room comes to a halt when Jessica Stewart, associate director of Student Development Services, approaches the podium.
Stewart welcomes 132 first-year students and 22 parents to UIC and reminds them, “I would be naive to think you’re going to remember everything from today and tomorrow.”
Anyone would be naive to disagree with that statement.
The day’s First-Year Student Orientation begins at 8 a.m. and proceeds through the rest of the day into the next with presentations, tours and an overnight stay in Commons West.
Summer orientation is held from late May through the end of July, with additional sessions in August. Transfer student orientations (one day, instead of two) are also offered between semesters.
July 16’s orientation was typical. After splitting into small groups with orientation leaders (groups are based on the incoming student’s intended college), the students check their belongings and head outside for icebreaker games.
“You’re trying to let your students make friends,” says orientation leader Ademola Adeoshun, a junior in biochemistry who’s pre-med with a minor in nutrition.
“You let your freshmen know that you’re here for them, just to make them feel as much at home as possible.”
During the two-day program, students learn about finances, police, computing services, activity clubs, campus housing, commuting and resource centers.
An advising session with their academic college helps them choose their fall semester classes. That evening, there are games and sports sponsored by Campus Housing and UIC Athletics.
Adeoshun says the most frequently asked questions he hears are:
• Is UIC safe?
• Is 10 minutes between classes enough?
• How’s the food?
Orientation leaders live on campus for the summer, receiving room and board plus a salary. “Being an orientation leader is a really great position, and if you ever have the opportunity to do it, I say go for it,” Adeoshun says.
This year’s orientation includes a new feature, the “first lecture” — a 50-minute talk by a faculty member. “It’s been exciting, because students have been very eager to hear it,” says Stewart. “I think it’s ignited something in them.”
Chemistry professor Donald Wink, director of undergraduate studies in chemistry, presents today’s lecture, on the future of molecular humans.
Wink teaches CHEM 112: General College Chemistry, which meets at 8 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “It feels good to see students sacrifice their sleep time for my class,” he tells the group.
Aneta Rutkowski, a graduate of Marist High School from the Southwest Side, says she isn’t fazed by the lecture’s intensity.
“It’s not going to be easy,” says Rutkowski, who plans to major in biochemistry. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but I think it’ll be manageable, if you study.”
Her biggest worries?
“Just being able to get around to my classes,” she says. ” And the homework load.”
The parents, who get their own (shorter) orientation, have different concerns.
“Parents want to know, from our perspective, what is valuable about the university,” says Adam Orde, a sophomore in English who leads parent orientations. “For them, we provide information about the university and reassure them.”
Elbert Thomas, a West Lawn resident whose son, Latrell, will be a freshman in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says quality of education is a priority.
“From my research, I know UIC is a great school,” Thomas says. “I’m here to have a better understanding of the enrollment process, financial aid, different networks available to the student,” he says. “And to get the feel of the university.”
The first-year and transfer student orientations are organized by Stewart, program coordinator Jodi Stelly and representatives from colleges, support programs and other campus units. The group, which meets monthly throughout the school year, reviews the evaluations students give after completing orientation.
“Your transition into college isn’t just, ‘I went to orientation, I started school,'” says Stewart. “It takes some people a while to get acquainted with college life.”
“I really emphasize to incoming students that it’s not my expectation that they will memorize everything, but that they have a baseline of information, so when the time comes, they know where to look.”