July 13, 2008

Orientation ’08 Eases Transition to Cornell

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When Andrew Heilmann ’09 transferred to Cornell last January, the struggles of transitioning to a new university, especially in the middle of the year, were eased by his participation in the January Orientation Program. Ever since that point, he has had a deep appreciation for the importance of orientation and the active role the Orientation Steering Committee plays in helping new students adapt to a new environment.
The OSC, a student-run organization and club, is an offshoot of the Office of the Dean of Students. Their mission statement is “To foster an environment in which volunteers work with Cornell resources to successfully plan and execute an enjoyable and extraordinary orientation that builds student leaders, encourages teamwork, gives back to the Cornell community and cultivates relationships while welcoming new students and families, introducing them to the Cornell tradition, and encouraging students to increase their independence through the creation of new friendships and exploration of their new home.”
Heilmann decided to give back to the OSC out of gratitude for how they helped him transition to Cornell by helping create this year’s Freshman Orientation.
“If it wasn’t for [the members of the OSC] I wouldn’t have acclimated as well,” Heilmann said.
Heilmann is serving as one of the co-chairs for 2008 Freshman Orientation, along with Lorelei Stoica ’09.
One consensus among many of the OSC members was the importance of having freshmen get a feel for the University, the campus and their peers prior to the beginning of their first semester.
“Orientation is important because it allows new students to get acquainted with the campus and meet lots of other students before classes actually start,” Emily Krebs ’10, a member of the OSC, said.
Since incoming freshmen are already nervous to undertake a rigorous academic workload, it is better to evade social pressures and lessen the anxiety of navigating an unfamiliar campus prior to being bogged down with homework.
“Orientation allows students to work out all the kinks, get settled and meet people before launching into the school year,” Emma Nagle ’09, a member of the OSC, said.
The OSC began planning orientation in September 2007, after the new OSC members were selected. Heilmann explained that they have met to develop a new theme for this year’s orientation (superheroes), to come up with “new takes on old events” such as Big Red Blowout and Cornell Night, and to plan brand new events, such as a sustainability fundraiser on move-in day and a debate among Cornell professors about different political issues that are key in the upcoming presidential election.
Every year a new OSC ushers in innovative ideas and plans.
“Having different people helps bring new ideas to the table,” Heilmann said.
The majority of the planning and creative process of orientation is done by the OSC, but there are others who are crucial for a successful orientation.
Lisa K’Bedford, the former assistant dean of students, was the key administrative member who worked with the OSC. There are also around 650 Orientation Leaders and 60 Orientation Supervisors who help fulfill all the planning by the OSC and help make a memorable experience for the freshmen. The Orientation Supervisors help train the Orientation Leaders by doing different leadership building and diversity training activities with them.
One of the key points that Heilmann stressed is the need for the Orientation programming and the Orientation Leaders to help facilitate bringing the freshmen out of their comfort zones.
He emphasized the importance of having an open mind throughout Orientation and “putting yourself out there to experience all that Cornell has to offer.”