Several years ago it was time for my high school reunion. I told my husband that it was easy to believe I had graduated from high school 20 years ago, but that it could not be possible that I had started college 20 years ago. Of course, those two events were only three months apart. My husband told me I felt that way because I had never left college – which is true of course.
A lot has changed since I headed off to college. Of course I didn’t bring a computer. I was thrilled to bring a graduation present – a Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter with exchangeable ribbons like the one below. You could swap the ribbon cartridges for different colors but the best part was the option for a correction tape cartridge – so much easier to fix mistakes! One of my suitemates brought a small TV – black and white – which was a rarity since most of us went down the hall to the lounge to watch TV. My orientation session was a group meeting and an advising session (at least that’s all I remember). It certainly was not the comprehensive program that is standard today.
On the other hand, there are some things that haven’t changed. Students still wonder about their roommates, about their class schedule and whether or not they will be successful academically and socially. This month, new student orientation season begins on the 40 Acres. The Class of 2017 will show up, several hundred students at a time. Many of them will be with their families to start the process of becoming college students and Longhorns.
This year, just like last year, everyone involved in orientation will be working to set an expectation that the normal trajectory for our students is to graduate in four years. It’s an important message for our students to hear. And while we all know that many life events can make that goal challenging for our students, it is important that we help set four-year graduation as a goal. There are other important messages as well: be safe, choose wisely, get involved. The information to share with these new students is nearly endless. The many staff members involved in orientation have a huge job in helping students get off to a great start.
While many Student Affairs staff members have formal tasks at orientation, all of us have a role in welcoming our newest students to campus. As a Division, our vision is to be a leader in creating a campus culture that engages all students and inspires them to change the world.
So, as you see orientees, please take time to greet them. If you see families standing at a campus map or looking lost, please stop and offer to help them. Remember to wear your nametags when you travel across campus; it signals that you are a member of the university community and makes it easier for someone to approach you and ask for help. We all contribute to the campus atmospherewith every interaction we have each and every day. Much has changed since I went off to college, but new students still feel lost on a large campus and a friendly face can make all of the difference.
All the best,