Changes to orientation planning in motion

Students, faculty work to welcome new faces

Antonio Nevarez, Staff Writer

Students check in during orientation on September 9, 2023. (Rio Giancarlo)

At the start of every quarter, incoming students have the opportunity to attend orientation. In order to pull off these ambitious events, orientation coordinators and students work together months in advance. This year, coordinators have decided to change the way they plan orientation, hoping to create a smooth process with additional planning time. 

Kevin Deschler is assistant director of the office of student involvement and leadership. He is also an orientation coordinator and is working with students to plan how orientation will go for incoming students. The main difference he is seeing with this new team is how much time they have to plan for the next event compared to last year. 

“The orientation coordinators who can help the orientation team, like myself, plan orientation and facilitate orientation, they didn’t really start doing that role until like late August or early September,” said Deschler about the coordinators last year. “So they had this really, really short time in which they had to kind of become the masters of orientation. And that’s really hard.”

When it came time to form a team of new coordinators, Deschler decided to adapt the planning based on challenges from last year. 

“Rather than hiring people to start in August, I have my six orientation coordinators, hired them in the fall to start Jan. 1. What that does, ideally, is it gives me two whole quarters to get them familiar with what the plan is for this summer,” Deschler explained. “But it also gives me two whole quarters to like get their actual input and allow for them to have a say over what happens in orientation.”

Since hiring his team to start on Jan. 1, Deschler has been able to lead the coordination for one orientation so far, and the teamwork is paying off. 

“We just did spring orientation for our incoming students this quarter. And it was really wonderful for me to have a team of six current students to be on my side helping me put that on, whereas in the past, it would have just been me and whichever staff members I could convince to help me out,” Deschler said. 

Not only has Deschler’s team been able to work hard to set up orientation events for incoming students, but the extra time they have has also given them the opportunity to get to know each other. Deschler has much appreciation for the hard work his group has done so far.

“They were so great. So on it, so friendly, they did all the things I wanted to do and went above and beyond every time,” Deschler said. “I wanted to celebrate our successful spring orientation. So on Monday night, we just went up to Molly Moon’s and got ice cream, we went to Kerry Park, and we had our weekly staff meeting. I try to integrate that kind of stuff through all of our team meetings.” 

Fall orientation is often the largest welcoming event of the school year, full of incoming students with their families as they begin their first year of college. Orientation for the start of the 2022-23 school year went from Thursday until Sunday. 

While coordinators are actively planning what next year’s orientation will look like, Deschler is already using feedback from previous events to decide how to structure the next one. The major difference is that orientation will run for three days next year rather than four. 

“My hope is that by shortening it, it makes it more accessible to families to come in with their students. By shortening it, it makes it so that it’s less daunting because it’s just like you’re going, going, going session to session to session for three straight days,” Deschler said.

Deschler says that shortening orientation to three days also makes things easier for students during a new start to their lives. A lot of stress can come with moving out, even for students not living on campus who are trying to familiarize themselves with their new school.

Madi Porter is a first-year honors, illustration and art history double major. Porter went to all four days of orientation. However, she believes the busyness of attending all four days became overwhelming before starting class.

“If we had an extra day or even a weekend before classes started, it probably would have been a smoother experience,” Porter said. “It felt rushed, and we were exhausted because we had to attend so many seminars over such a short amount of time.”

Deschler is hoping for a successful fall orientation this year and is prepared to plan it out with his new student coordinators. He understands that while orientation may be stressful for families, incoming students and even current students, he believes orientation is worth attending. His passion for creating a successful welcoming event stems from his experience as a college student.

“Doing risky things and new things was kind of outside the norm for me. I think orientation pushed me towards continuing to make more and more courageous social choices and push me more and more to get out of my shell,” Deschler said.

He even remembers the specific moment when someone encouraged him to try something new during his orientation. He describes feeling lonely throughout orientation. That was until someone within his group invited him to a game of racquetball. 

“I never played racquetball. That’s like a sport for like sweaty, middle-aged lawyers, no thank you,” Deschler said. “But it’s got to be a better alternative than hanging out alone on this damp field. So I said yes, and that guy was at my wedding in July.”

Interactions between fellow incoming students are a highlight for many, including first-year psychology major Ella Gilbert. She says a highlight of orientation was “meeting a now close friend and other peers,” and wishes she had more opportunities to meet others. 

“I feel like it could’ve been made more interactive between students,” Gilbert said. “The orientation leaders did a lot more talking at us than to us.”

Porter describes her time during orientation as an exciting time that allowed her to make new friends. 

“My experience at orientation was a positive one. I met my closest friends there and made many connections to other honors students,” Porter said. “Orientation had a few fun events and it was a great chance to meet new people and explore the school.”

New student orientation for the fall is expected to start on Sept. 8. Those interested in becoming a student leader for orientation can learn more by going to @spu_orientation on Instagram, or by emailing [email protected]