August 24, 2009

Cornell to Freshmen: Welcome!

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“Welcome to College,” read the sign hanging outside of a second floor balcony Saturday afternoon, surrounded by students drinking and reveling in the afternoon sunshine. In it’s simplicity and bluntness, the sign represented what were on the minds of most on and around Cornell’s campus: the start of another year.
From the frantic unpacking and tearful goodbyes taking place on North Campus to the debauchery at dozens of crowded Collegetown houses, the widely-revered tradition of Cornell Orientation was highly visible to passersby this weekend.
Members of the class of 2013 congregated outside Court and Bauer residence halls on Friday, listening attentively to the directions given by orientation leaders. On Saturday night, small circles of freshman gathered on Ho Plaza to listen to Cornell’s orientation leaders offer words of advice on how to begin their undergraduate careers on the right foot.
According to Jack Cao ’10, the variety in events for orientation — the intimate gatherings and the large crowds — provide Cornell students with diverse settings in which they can socialize. While these are traditional events for Orientation, they fit perfectly in line with this year’s Orientation theme: “plugging in”.
“They complement one another,” Cao said about the wide range of events for Orientation. Even though he has been very pleased with the attendance and the organization of the events so far, he said that the students are also becoming very well acclimated to the Cornell community.
“I see freshman becoming more and more comfortable,” Cao said.
This year’s freshman class is the the largest in recent history. With 3,221 student declaring their intent to enroll, the class is larger than all others in recent history. Last year’s entering freshman class was made up of 3,139 students, according to data released by the department of budget and planning.
Due to budget concerns, the University announced that it would raise its enrollment goal from last year’s 3,050 students to 3,150 students, the first increase since Cornell added 50 students to its enrollment benchmark in the fall of 2003. As of now, the Class of 2013 is overenrolled by 70 students.
This group of freshmen is also one of the most diverse classes to ever enroll in the University. Seven percent of entering freshmen are African American, which is up from about 4.5 percent of the Class of 2012, a recruitment statistic that many administrators found disappointing last year. Sixteen percent are Asian American, seven percent are Hispanic American and 43 percent are Caucasian. Eleven percent of students are from outside the United States.
Native New Yorkers made up 28 percent of the entering class, 11 percent came from New England and 21 percent came from the Middle Atlantic. 88 percent of students were in the top 10 percent of their class.
While freshman like Bill Morgan ’13 and Joey Elthaway ’13 might not have enjoyed the mandatory events or the plethora of icebreakers they had to endure, others like Horace Chan ‘13 enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people.
In addition to becoming well acquainted with their peers in the class of 2013 both in an intimate and a large group setting, the freshman, according to Cao, seemed to thoroughly enjoy the talents of Tim Gabriel, an illusionist and comedian at the Great Migration Saturday night. The name of this event was derived from the walk that freshman students make from North Campus to Barton Hall for the show.
“I liked the magic show,” Chan said.
While events like the Great Migration are traditional events to entertain freshman, other annual occurrences are necessities.
It might be hectic, but there can be no Freshman Orientation without Move-In Day. Volunteer upperclassmen don red shirts and help parents and new students unload their belongings. Even though some chaos is inevitable with a whole class of students moving in on Friday, Alana Mildner ’10, a member of the Orientation Steering Committee, said that the moving-in process was without major issues this year.
“Everything went very smoothly,” Mildner said. Mildner coordinated all the students moving in to Low Rise 7, HILC and JAM; and since she was wearing a red shirt and head set, she was very visible and open to parent feedback. She said that throughout the day, parents continually came up to her and told how easy the process was, especially compared to some of the other universities they had experience moving into.
In addition to pleasing the parents, the Orientation Steering Committee at the behest of the Committee on Transfer Affairs, was more conscious of those transfer students who were also spending their first few days at Cornell.
Karen Hochheiser, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, served as an intern this summer helping program events during Orientation Week for transfer students. Hochheiser used feedback from transfer students in previous years to assess what sort of needs and gaps there were for the transfers that had to be filled.
“I wanted to get as much student input as possible,” Hochheiser said.
Hochheiser has been very pleased with the turnout of the two events that have been so far: Transfer First Night and the Transfer Student Reception. At the student reception, Dean Kent Hubbel ’67 spoke to the transfers and then stayed to speak with many of them individually.
Hochheiser has also urged many of the Orientation Leaders to take their transfer groups out to dinner “to encourage them to get to know off-campus a little bit.”
Meanwhile, many upperclassmen have celebrated their relative seniority on campus by partaking in a week of carefree partying, stacking up noise violations as fast as they can. Enjoy, Cornellians, for soon there shall be responsibility!

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