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Orientation program gets strong reviews

JULY 6, 2012

by Erikah Haavie, Contributing Writer

Assignment: Find someone in your group who hasn’t tried sweet tea.

Maddy Craft, a resident of Minneapolis, Minn., suddenly found herself surrounded.

Though she had to disappoint the group (she sampled sweet tea awhile back), Craft said she is already feeling a special bond with Furman after being part of “Group 6.” “I’m not alone,” Craft said of her orientation group. “Everyone is so friendly . . . and we’re all learning together.”

A new approach to freshman orientation this year brought large groups of incoming students and their families to campus in June for five two-day programs packed full of activity.

A total of 552 freshmen from California to Massachusetts attended the orientation sessions, along with an estimated 650 parents and other family members, according to Austin Arias, an intern with the National Orientation Directors Association who assisted with Furman’s program.

Furman’s new take on orientation emerged from two years of research by J. Scott Derrick, director of the Trone Student Center; Jessica Berkey, associate director for student activities; and members of the First Year Experience Committee. The committee looked at orientation programs used across the country before developing the two-day summer sessions.

The new system featured a variety of activities, among them programs about academics at Furman, a resource fair to introduce students to various offices and departments on campus, and bonding activities with other members of the class. Students also worked with advisors to plan their initial class schedules. For parents and family members, sessions included information on housing and residence life and a panel discussion on campus safety, security and alcohol policies.

In previous years, freshmen would arrive for orientation — which included advising and course selection — five days before fall classes began. This year freshmen will arrive on Thursday, Aug. 16, before classes begin Monday, Aug. 20. They’ll participate in additional transitional activities during the first few weeks of classes.

Before coming to orientation, Kristen Marakoff of Fort Mill, S.C., said she was unsure about choosing courses and didn’t know what student organizations were on campus. Now, she has her answers.

It was the simple things, including the icebreaker games and eating meals with other students, that she said she enjoyed most: “I feel a lot more comfortable.”

Monica Williams of Columbia said she was grateful to be included in the orientation program with her son, Jason Pecorella. “It’s very open to the parents,” she said. “I already feel a connection with everyone. They are helpful and up front with the information we need to know.”

Craft, who plans a career in sportscasting, brought her grandfather, Ed Craft of Beaufort, S.C. Coming from a high school with 3,600 students, Craft said she likes the cozier feel at Furman.

Both were impressed with what they saw. “It’s hard to quantify, but there’s a personal touch on everything here,” Ed Craft said.

Dianne Chiles of Greenville, who joined her son Justin Paden for the program, said, “I know Furman’s reputation in the community . . . so I felt very comfortable with him coming here.” She added that the orientation provided many insights into what she would need to know to help Justin prepare for his first semester.

Her son attended sports camps at Furman while he was in high school and always hoped he would be able to attend Furman as a college student. “We were nervous while waiting to hear if he was accepted,” Chiles said. “Now we’re really excited.”

Students who were unable to participate in the June sessions are in the process of being contacted for a virtual orientation, either by phone or online.

Last updated July 6, 2012
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