The ability to meet people is a major concern for any new college student.
Freshmen at Temple University, the 27th largest university in the nation with more than 34,000 students worldwide, get a chance to become acquainted with many of their peers before the fall semester begins.
Thousands of incoming first-year students initially make friends and meet future classmates during one of over a dozen Temple orientation sessions held in the summer.
Temple provides a two-day local orientation for students who live less than 70 miles from campus and a four-day out-of-town orientation for students who live more than 70 miles away. There is also an orientation for Ambler students and an online orientation for transfer students.
More than 4,000 incoming freshmen attended orientation this summer, about 500 more students than the previous year, said Moira Ryder, assistant director of the Office of Orientation and New Student Programs.
Ryder said the feedback the office receives from a majority of students at the end of the local and out of town orientations is predominantly about the opportunity to meet other students.
“That’s their No. 1 priority,” Ryder said. “The more they can learn about Temple is just icing on the cake.”
The opportunities to learn about Temple during orientation are plentiful.
School and college presentations are made at all orientation sessions. Students also meet with Campus Safety Services, learn about Temple technology and become more familiar with several key elements of campus life including Career Development Services, residential life and student activities.
When students aren’t learning about the university or exploring Philadelphia during one of the city excursions to places like South Street and City Hall, they are participating in small group discussions or partaking in evening social events at 1940 residence hall, where orientation sessions are held.
The orientation program is evaluated several times a year, Ryder said, and significant changes have been made to the program since she arrived at Temple in 2004. That year, she said, there was less discussion and more lecturing by speakers, and students were funneled in large groups from one area to another.
Something had to change, she said.
After orientation ended in 2004, a large-scale meeting was held with “everybody who was involved in orientation” to assess the program, Ryder said. Representatives from every part of Temple including the advising center, the Bursar’s Office, Student Financial Services and plenty of students were present at the meeting, she said.
“We really broke [the process] down completely and started to ask questions such as ‘Why are we doing it like this,’ and, ‘Is there a better way to do it?’” Ryder said. “Everybody had a piece in the assessment, so everybody was really interested in rebuilding the program. It created a huge difference.”
Now, those large-scale meetings occur on a regular basis, Ryder said, and the university’s involvement in orientation has steadily increased in the past three summers.
Other significant changes made to the program in recent years include the implementation of audience response technology during presentations and moving out of town orientation from Sunday through Wednesday to Monday through Thursday.
“Students would arrive [on Sunday] and they wouldn’t get to see any of the vibrancy of campus, they just had 7-Eleven.” Ryder said. “Now, working with Student Activities, we check them in and they’re able to come over to the Student Center. We run a huge barbeque for the students and the parents, we have a jazz band that plays, the game room is open and they have access to the cinema. So they can see a lot of the campus life when they get here which is really important.”
Another important part of orientation is the more than 20 Owl Team leaders and two interns, a diverse group of students who work with the orientation office to ensure that the sessions run smoothly.
“The Owl Team Leaders and interns are the ones that work with the students 24/7 when they’re here,” Ryder said. “They’re an absolutely integral part of the planning of the program and the implementation of the program.”
Ryder said the difference in the student involvement among the Owl Team leaders and interns has been “phenomenal.” She said the students crafted their own Owl Team leader and intern manuals, something that the program never had before.
The Owl Team leaders and interns also help keep a watchful eye on the progress of orientation, evaluating each program on a session-to-session basis.
“The program has to be flexible,” Ryder said. “If we see something [wrong] at the first orientation session, we fix it or enhance it by the second orientation session.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.