New student orientations at USF are in the process of being overhauled.
The biggest change will most likely be a mandatory overnight stay. Freshmen will be required to attend two days of orientation and spend the first night in the residence halls. The key goal is for the students to see the student life side of the University and not just the academia.
“We want an enhanced orientation to help smooth the transition from high school to college,” said Glen Besterfield, assistant dean of Undergraduate Studies, which the office of orientation must report to.
According to Besterfield, the previous orientations did not sufficiently cover college life.
“So, we need to introduce these students to everything about college life, and I think that’s what’s really been lacking in our orientations in the past,” he said.Student Government supported the idea of enhancing orientation. Besterfield approached SG and sought its perception of it.
“We were not happy at all with orientation,” student body President Maxon Victor said. “We strongly felt that it set the wrong tone and gave the wrong impression of our University.”
Besterfield said in May 2005 that Provost Renu Khator formed the Workgroup on Strengthening Orientation. After researching methods used by other universities, it recommended an overnight stay.
In the past, people came in for orientation two days in a row, but it was only a six to eight hourlong spread over the span of the two days, Besterfield said. An overnight stay would allow the students to socialize with each other and start college with new friends.
“They can develop some friendships, and these are the friendships that they’re going to need as they transition to the University,” Besterfield said.
Speakers and an explanation of academia will still be a part of the process.
“The student will then stay on campus that night in the dorms with the rest of the students who attended that orientation for an evening filled with events, excitement, things to get the students engaged with the University,” Besterfield said.
Not all the details of the new orientations have been set yet, but there is a production team working on hammering out the specifics. However, the team knows it will increase the amount of students per session and reduce the amount of sessions throughout the summer. It is also preparing for the overnight stay.
The students will lodge in Beta Hall and Castor Hall. There is room for approximately 580 students. Orientation leaders and resident assistants will be brought in to keep things manageable. The orientation fees will increase to fund the housing and meals.
“The cost will be changing. We have not arrived at a cost yet, but it will be significantly more,” Besterfield said.
However, he said, the team’s research showed that USF’s orientation fees are the lowest in the state. Even after an increase, there will still be schools with higher fees.
Besterfield also has improvements for the academic part of orientation. He seeks to have the students learn firsthand how to work with Blackboard and OASIS. There will be a Powerpoint presentation on OASIS. However, he would like to see the students working with it.
“I didn’t even know what Blackboard was when I first started,” freshman Gabriella Clemente said.
She said her teachers kept referring to Blackboard and she didn’t know what it was or how to get on it.
Clemente also thinks there should be more student interaction during the orientation.
“The last orientation, I didn’t really talk to anybody else except for my mom, and I saw one person I already knew from high school,” she said. “We didn’t do anything with anybody else. I didn’t end up making any friends.”
Clemente said an overnight stay is a nice offer, but it shouldn’t be mandatory. Other freshmen liked the idea of having an overnight stay requirement.
Freshman Ebony Lewis did not have a problem with last year’s orientation. However, she likes the new idea.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Lewis said. “It might be hard for some people that are, like, introverts, but that’s the whole point of college, you got to get out there at some point.”
SG is pleased with the new improvements.
“It’s going to make orientation well rounded,” Victor said.