The shift of New Student Orientation to a virtual welcome has changed the nature of this tradition, but also offered some benefits, organizers said.

Instead of the traditional two-day, on-campus overnight experience, orientation this summer comes as a six-week virtual experience -- from early July to mid-August -- that Laker Leader student orientation guides say are allowing for incoming students to make longer, more fruitful connections. Separate tracks for new students and parents include creative ways to welcome them to the Oswego family.

Every week features a module on Blackboard with information incoming students need to know, and advice and resources to help them succeed, said Boni Quatroche, interim coordinator of New Student Orientation. The process involves four to six self-assessment questions on Blackboard at the end of the week.

A key part of the program is weekly Laker Leader Hangouts, where the students working on the orientation team get to interact with and welcome incoming students.

“I like that there’s an opportunity to build friendships and community throughout the whole summer,” said Jill Soggs, a junior adolescence education major and Laker Leader captain. “I have students who come and hang out with me during Laker Hangout Hours every week, which is great and I appreciate it a lot.”

“For the social programs, we get to see a different side of the students, and I really enjoy that,” said Laker Leader Erika Horne, a sophomore human resource management major.

“I enjoy it and it gives me a chance to build my communication skills,” said Laker Leader Yahya Ndiaye, junior electrical and computer engineering major. “I enjoy interacting with students.”

Yadi Aranda Burgos, a junior criminal justice major who also worked last year’s orientation, noted the different nature of the program but appreciates rising to the challenge.

“I’m enjoying coming up with different ways to get students engaged, finding things we can do and games we can play,” Burgos said. “I see the number of students involved increasing every week.”

Stronger connections

Sophomore childhood education major Jake Czaplicki is on the orientation social media committee, which motivates teams to engage and earn points in fun competitions. He agreed that the longer duration will have benefits for new students. 

“Orientation stays more fresh in their minds,” Czaplicki said. “Instead of meeting people for two days in July, then not seeing them for a while, the connections are going to be a lot stronger. I’m proud of the environment that we’ve made.”

Rebekah Frank, a senior cinema and screen studies major, is on the presentation committee, putting together content for the Blackboard modules. “I come up with things they will need to know in college,” she said. “It’s a chance for them to become much more connected with other students. Now they will know so many more people, and that can help when they start college.”

Tigui Kourouma, sophomore adolescence education major, remembers going through orientation last summer, and was happy for the chance to give back as a Laker Leader this summer. “I enjoy meeting the new students and helping them along the way,” Kourouma said.

Laker Leaders also said they enjoy working with each other and building the team that supports students. “I really do love the camaraderie,” said senior childhood education major Savannah Malerba. “I work with a staff of people who are so caring.”

The plan to move in new students early -- Aug. 14 to 16 -- while returning students come back starting Aug. 20 will allow for a Welcome Week to help incoming students get to know each other and their new home.

“We obviously had to make some adjustments for this year’s program, but our students have been phenomenal,” Quatroche said.