Class of 2017: Getting oriented on the Metropolitan Campus
Members of the Class of 2017 jump for joy at orientation on the Metropolitan Campus. (Photos by Dan Landau)
By Kenna Caprio
By the end of a two-day orientation whirlwind at the Metropolitan Campus, incoming Fairleigh Dickinson University freshman have connected with faculty, toured the campus, met new friends, lip-synched in Dickinson Hall and registered for classes.
“The goal of orientation is for it to be a one-stop shop. You’re in orientation groups with students in the same major as you. At the end of your overnight, you should leave with an ID card and a schedule and know people in your major,” says Michelle McCroy Heins, dean of students on the Metropolitan Campus.
“I want students to feel like they belong here,” she continues. Fitting in starts at orientation: an event that blends the introducing of students to FDU and to one another.
“I wasn’t very open during my own orientation when I came in as a freshman,” says Srishti Arora, 19, an orientation leader or “OL,” studying nursing. “The move was really hard and I had a hard time settling in,” she admits. Arora, originally from India, attended high school in China. “But being an orientation leader really opened me up. I started getting more involved on campus.”
Each orientation group has between 10 and 15 students. Groups are assigned according to major and led by an OL in that major as well. That way, incoming freshman have familiar faces to look for again in the fall.
“As an orientation leader, you are setting an example for the incoming freshman and showing them what FDU is all about,” says Arora. “You’re the first person they’re acquainted with when they step onto campus, their first friend. They’re going to come to you, if you’ve done your job well, for advice.”
Basing her advice on her personal college experience, Arora reminds students to try not to get overwhelmed. “You have to remember that everyone around you is in the same boat and everyone has the same concerns,” she says. Those concerns often center on the social and academic aspects of college.
“We get asked a lot of questions about the majors and curriculum,” says Arora. Orientation leader expertise plus a faculty breakfast, helps ease academic anxieties. “At the faculty breakfast, students sit with professors in their desired major. They talk about internship opportunities and classes to take,” says McCroy Heins.
When it comes to the social side, “resident students ask about organizations on campus and how to get involved,” says Arora. “But just because you’re a commuter, that doesn’t mean you can’t be involved on campus. It’s a common misconception.”
Eighteen-year-old Evan Wiegman of Oak Ridge, New Jersey felt excited at orientation. “I really enjoyed getting to know people in my major, physical therapy. The orientation leaders are really energetic. It’s a lot of fun,” he says. Other incoming freshman report they’re excited to reinvent themselves in college and love the urban feel of campus and proximity to New York City.
And then there’s the much-heralded lip synch competition. It is exactly “what freshman year is going to be like, working with people you just met,” says Arora. “If students are able to open themselves up and let their personalities shine through, go on stage and make a fool of themselves, that’s the point. Just come out of your shell.”
“Come in with an open mind and you’ll take so much out of the experience. It’s really rewarding,” says Arora. That’s the mindset orientation leaders strive for too. Before orientation sessions start, the OLs go to camp. The leaders stay in cabins, cooperate in team-building exercises, make s’mores, debrief and discuss. This overnight trip culminates with each participant attempting a high ropes course. “That is one big challenge during camp. It pushes a lot of people out of their comfort zones. We’re willing to challenge ourselves because that’s what we’re expecting of our students. It’s only fair we experience that too.”
The second and third overnight orientation sessions run Tuesday, July 16 to Wednesday, July 17 and Tuesday, July 30 to Wednesday, July 31. More details, including “What to Expect,” are available online.