A new beginning
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Going to college offers young adults an opportunity to excel academically, engage in campus life, and make positive decisions that impact their future. For many incoming first-year students going through University of Iowa Orientation, this will be the first time they will be away from their parents and making their own decisions.
To minimize anxiety for parents and students, the UI has made significant changes to its orientation program.
“I see that they are excited but are also very nervous,” says Jordan Brandt-Nuckols, one of 28 Hawkeye Guides on the orientation staff. “What is important for them is that they are able to build connections on campus before they actually start the school year.”
The program has been expanded to include 13 summer sessions, allowing for smaller groups of 330 students, down from 450, which affords Hawkeye Guides more opportunities to address any uncertainties.
The Hawkeye Guides—upperclassmen who are responsible for supporting the incoming first-year students during their orientation session—provide a perception of campus life best told by a fellow student.
“My goal is to be a resource for students,” says Brandt-Nuckols. “If they see me during the school year, I want them to feel comfortable approaching me if they have any problems or need help.”
To expand students’ awareness of the campus and resources, Explore Iowa has been incorporated into the evening activities. While touring campus in groups, students interact with one another, building connections that will be useful when they return for classes.
“We incorporated puzzle pieces with questions frequently asked by others to get students to talk about what they are feeling and their concerns,” says Jon Sexton, director of Orientation Services.
In an effort to become more sustainable, the entire program has gone paperless. Previously, students were given a folder containing roughly 45 sheets of resources and information. This has been condensed into a flash drive that can be conveniently worn as a wristband.
The class registration process is paperless, integrating students into the ISIS system that is used throughout the year for course registration.
“Between 4,700 students in the summer, we are now conservatively saving half a million sheets of paper,” says Sexton.
ISIS not only removes paper from the process, it provides in-depth descriptions of courses and displays real-time openings.
“I have not taken every class on campus, so for them to be able to go to ISIS and read what its going to be like, it instills more confidence in their course selection when they know what’s available and what it entails,” says Brandt-Nuckols.
Orientation serves as a time for students to begin the process of making decisions for themselves. Registration for classes is done away from the watchful eyes of parents.
“One of the big things is getting students ready to operate on their own so when they come in the fall they don’t feel like it’s a total shock to the system,” says Sexton. “At orientation we introduce the student’s routine of meeting with their advisor on their own and building their schedule on their own. We also talk to parents about being a resource for their student.”
The development of a support system makes it a bit easier for parents to let their students make their own way at Iowa.
“My daughter knows that if she has questions, I can help her with them, or someone here on campus can,” says Debbie Ranniger, parent of an incoming first-year student. “It’s more about letting them go to create their own experiences.”