“Before I could even get out of my car, people were greeting me and asking me what hall I was in so they could help me with my stuff. People were also playing music … everyone was very welcoming,” College freshman Kamay Gordon said of her move-in experience.
This type of bonding and community building was a general theme during Orientation Week — a week at Emory characterized by the bright pink shirts of Orientation Leaders (OLs) and large flocks of freshmen enjoying events like SongFest, Best in Show, the President’s Coke Toast and Convocation.
Although these staples remain, Interim Director of Orientation Tammy Kim and Assistant Director for New Student and Transition Programs Ambra Yarbrough have worked with OLs for the past year to implement changes that they believe have contributed to “one of the smoothest orientations they’ve had in years” and one that has increasingly benefited first-year students.
Increased participation during move-in, a new farewell event, new attire during Convocation as well as different locations and times for certain events were some of the changes made for Orientation Week.
As part of a strategy to build community, this year all students, instead of just those involved in Orientation, were invited to volunteer to help new students move into their dorms. Around 200 volunteers helped with move-in this year, according to Kim.
In addition, college deans, administrators and University President James W. Wagner attended move-in, greeting students with open arms, helping them to carry their many cardboard boxes up to their new dorm rooms. Swoop, Emory’s mascot, was also there handing out popsicles to sweaty students and parents taking breaks from a long day of moving.
College senior and OL Krissy Morgan said that move-in is her favorite part of Orientation Week.
“It’s so exciting making the first-years’ day and seeing the parents —they pull up and they’re all stressed out, freaking out,” Morgan said. “Then [an OL] comes up and immediately starts unloading their car so it’s already in the room when they get there,” she said. “Seeing the look on their faces makes Orientation the best thing ever.”
A farewell reception took place for the first time this year on Sunday in the Coke Commons of the Dobbs University Center (DUC) to provide a formal goodbye for parents and students, according to Yarbrough.
The Orientation directors decided to add the farewell reception due to feedback from previous years that parents were unsure when to leave and felt that leaving their child happened somewhat abruptly, according Kim.
“[In previous years] parents were sad that they didn’t have a formalized hug-your-student-goodbye, take-one-last-photo,” Kim said. “So we thought it would be nice to have an actual venue where they could meet up with their student one last time and say their goodbyes before students went to their mandatory meeting.”
During the reception, students and parents enjoyed light refreshments and even snapped pictures in a photobooth before saying their goodbyes.
Another change this year was the mandatory business casual dress code during Convocation on Tuesday.
“We really felt this changed the tone of the event,” Kim said of the business casual dress, adding that in previous years students took the event more casually, often showing up in athletic gear, leaving the event early or taking phone calls during the event.
Yarbrough added that respect was a large theme of Orientation and that the change in dress code reflected the theme of “what respect looks like when attending class and interacting with faculty members and administrators,” which OLs had been instructed to discuss with their first-year students.
“In having that conversation about respect, we’ve really seen that carry through in how [first-years] have engaged in all the Orientation events,” Yarbrough said. “I’d say for all of the big events, we’ve seen a dramatic change in behavior.”
The President’s annual Coca-Cola toast took place on the Quadrangle this year to avoid the heat of previous years when the event took place on McDonough Field. According to the Orientation directors, the Quad provided more shade than McDonough has.
The Student Activities Fair on Wednesday was also moved to later in the day to allow for a milder temperature.
“We received a lot of positive feedback from [these changes] because the temperature was much more bearable,” Yarbrough said.
College freshman Karen Shim said that although she enjoyed Orientation overall, she would’ve like there to be more of a focus on making friends and getting to know Emory’s campus.
“My big concern was that I didn’t feel like I was making friends during Orientation,” Shim said, adding that activities, such as Karniv-OL, were too “big and crazy” to actually make friends.
She also said that she feels lost sometimes trying to find her way across campus and wished there had been more of an effort to familiarize freshmen with Emory’s campus before the first day of classes.
“A lot of my friends and I were concerned that, come the first day of classes, we wouldn’t feel like we were ready,” Shim said. “There were a lot of fun activities during Orientation that kept us busy but not so many activities to help us get to know college life at Emory better.”
Although Orientation Week officially ended on Saturday, Yarbrough said, “Orientation is a process, not an event,” citing the many events the Orientation directors have planned for new students this fall.
Among those events are an arts soirée, the annual Carter Town Hall, family weekend and a new event called Evidence Town Hall, during which two professors from different fields will discuss the same topic through their distinct lenses.
Yarbrough and Kim also encourage OLs to stay in touch with their group of new students throughout the year and meet back up with their group during some of the fall events.
Another new program this year, “Team Transfer,” links previous transfer students with incoming transfers to serve as mentors. Yarbrough and Kim said that for next year, they will be setting up a similar program for Oxford Continuees and that they’d like to expand on peer mentorship in the future.
For the first time this year, students will play a part in assessing Emory’s Orientation program through their Pre-major Advising Connection at Emory (PACE) class, according to Yarbrough.
On Monday, new students should have received an email asking them to participate in the survey on Orientation, and they will have two weeks to participate, according to Yarbrough. She added that she and Kim are always looking for ways to improve.
“We will use the data and information we receive from this platform to look into changes for next year that could improve the program,” Yarbrough said.