Class of 2017: Jumping into college at orientation

Jumping into college with orientation at FDU’s College at Florham

Story and photos by Dan Landau

The summer between high school and college is an exciting but nerve-racking time for students as they move into college, adulthood and independence. To ease the transition, incoming freshmen at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s College at Florham visit campus for orientation. 

The four summer orientations, which each take place over two days and one night, are designed to help students connect to FDU and fellow classmates. At the beginning of orientation, students come to campus often without knowing anyone. They leave having forged friendships with members of their class and the upperclassmen who lead their orientation groups. 

The whole point of orientation is to make the new students feel like they belong here. “They learn campus resources, understand academic expectations, and most of all,” says Jesse Swartz who runs the orientation program, “they get to know their classmates.” Part of that is accomplished by dividing the incoming freshmen into groups of 10-13, led by one or two upper classmen (orientation leaders). These groups do everything together: get student ID photos taken, play games, and decorate Student Center ceiling tiles to represent their group. 

“One of central activities of orientation is the tile competition,” continues Swartz. “The activity requires students to design a ceiling tile, which incorporates elements of FDU, class pride, creativity, and teamwork. Students often break out of their shell during this activity and really start to bond with the other members of their group.”

For incoming freshman Joelle Manganella, of Roxbury, N.J., the groups allowed her to meet a lot of very different people. “I know that if I had just walked into school on the first day and didn’t come to orientation, I probably would not have gotten to meet these people because we are so different from each other,” says Manganella. “It is much easier to meet friends (at orientation) than just coming here in the fall on the first day.”  

Andrew Coleman of Saratoga, N.Y., concurred, saying “Orientation was probably one of the greatest experiences I have had in a college environment. I made a few new friends, including the guy who will be my roommate.”

Above: Orientation leader Jenna Cowie (w/sunglasses) and her group decorate a ceiling tile for the Student Center as part of the Orientation activities this summer at the College at Florham.

But orientation isn’t just beneficial for incoming freshman; leaders Jenna Cowie and Zane Decker also enjoyed the experience, learning from the incoming students.

“This job is the most rewarding one I have ever had,” says Cowie, a two-time orientation leader and senior majoring in literature. “The impact that the orientation leaders have on the students is awesome: I still have students from last year’s orientation come up to me to tell me how they look up to me or remember something I did from orientation. That feeling alone is enough to keep the pep in my step! “

Decker, a senior, film major and three-time orientation leader, likes the responsibility that comes with being an orientation leader. “As an orientation leader, people rely on you and it is the best feeling in the world when someone needs you and you can help them”

“By giving advice to the freshmen and steering them in the right direction, we can potentially alter the way the school will take shape for the next year and years to come,” continues Decker. “As orientation leaders, we have the power to make real change at this school.” 

Decker was Hunter Iacovetti’s orientation leader and according to Iacovetti, was a very good one. “He was really fun and chill,” says the incoming biology major and Amityville, Long Island, N.Y. native. “He gave us the option to get out of our comfort zones and helped us to leave them when we were ready to.” 

James Philip Coombe, an incoming freshman from Dumont, N.J., really appreciated the help and guidance that the orientation leaders offered. “We could ask them any question,” he says. “They were like older brothers and sisters.”

Orientation helps get new students settled into college and sets the stage for their college experience. As they prepare for a new chapter in life, the incoming freshman are excited for what comes next:

Coombe is a theater major and is excited to study theater after watching performances by students in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts for the past four years as a high school student. “I came here all through high school to see their shows and I am finally going to be studying what I love — theater.” 

Kelsey Ryan of Roxbury, N.J. is anticipating playing lacrosse for the Devils with Mangella. “We both played on the summer club team at FDU and I am excited because I have wanted to play for Coach [Adrienne] Carr in college since played on the club team.” 

Coleman, is looking forward to diving into animation as a film/animation major. “I am psyched to learn more about animation,” he says. “It’s been a passion of mine since I was very, very little.”  

The third and fourth orientation sessions at Florham run July 8-9 and July 10-11. More information about orientation and what to expect is here

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

FDU Office of Public Relations

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Dina Schipper,
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Kenna Caprio,
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Helen Grill,
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FDU Office of Public Relations

   (College at Florham Office)
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Scott Giglio,
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Daniel Landau,
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