Getting off to a great start at New Student Orientation
What students said:
It was an amazing way to get to know people and the campus!
I was able to talk to new people, but because there were things to do, it wasn’t awkward and the pressure wasn’t on us to make it an exciting time.
Sure, playing the life-sized versions of Hungry, Hungry Hippos and Tic-Tac-Toe were fun, but there was method in this seeming madness — and the name of the bigger game was student success.
From Sept. 3–5, 2017, 124 undergraduate students new to Ambrose University took part in New Student Orientation, one of three offered (the others were for B.Ed. and Seminary students) to give everyone the opportunity to get their academic journey off on the right foot.
“Orientation is a great way to ensure students are confident and comfortable in being at Ambrose, and we do that by intentionally creating an experience that weaves fun and information together,” explains Lisa Moran, First Year Experience Coordinator. “We help them understand more about what post-secondary education is like, while also building the community — both peers and professors — they’ll be part of.
Student leadership was highlighted throughout. “We want new students to see peers in leadership, and we encourage them to have the same confidence in student leaders as we do. This gives new students a real sense of the Ambrose community.
“When they start classes, we want everyone to recognize someone they met in orientation.”
With widespread evidence increasingly pointing to the value of orientation in students’ academic performance, especially in the first year, Moran is continually refining Ambrose’s program to give students what they need — even if, on day one, they don’t know they need it.
“I work with students throughout the year,” she explains. “So I build what I learn into orientation. We help take away some of the surprises, and make sure students know what resources are available at Ambrose.”
This includes, for example, making it clear to students that they are responsible for their university studies, and that they must rely on themselves to ensure assignments are done and deadlines are met.
“I also remind them that university is supposed to be a challenge,” Moran says. “They shouldn’t be surprised if they feel a bit depressed for the first time in their lives, or if they fail now and then. For high-achieving students, that can be hard, but it’s part of learning.”
Importantly, she also lets students know she’s their first point of contact if they’re struggling. “I may not be the final person they talk to, but I’m the first person they should talk to,” she says.
Success at school — and life
“New Student Orientation is a bridge to academic success, and increasingly it’s also a bridge to life success,” Lisa Moran says. “Taking part is becoming more important, especially for students coming to Ambrose directly from high school who may not be fully prepared for what they’re stepping into.”
The power of orientation, she says, lies in helping students transition not only into effective post-secondary students, but also into adults ready to succeed in life.
“Generally, students today are not the same as those of a decade ago,” Moran notes. “They live in a culture completely changed by technology and are shaped by influences most of us never experienced. They see the world through a different lens, and strive to get where they want to go in the most efficient way possible.
“What we give them — the resources and support — evolves to meet their needs. Orientation isn’t magic, but we know it’s important to students’ success.”
Three days of fun, faith and friendship
“At the very least, we hope every student makes at least one friend at orientation,” says Lisa Moran. “We purposefully form small groups among students, usually people from the same program, so they can really get to know others.”
This year, New Student Orientation kicked off with a barbecue and playing life-sized board games — “It creates so much energy and laughter, and really breaks the ice.” — followed by a comedy night where students could take part or be in the audience.
The following day was information rich, featuring a wealth of sessions to help students understand what it means to be a post-secondary student, and a student at Ambrose specifically, and to get to know the city. It concluded with The Well, a reflective night of worship open to all students, not only those taking part in orientation, that affirmed Ambrose’s place as a Christian university.
Sessions concluded on day three, which also offered information about living in residence and the Commuter Life program. Orientation wrapped up on a final, fun high: an “Amazing Race” style tour of the campus.
It was, needless to say, a jam-packed three days.
“It was intentionally very busy,” Moran says, “so people didn’t have a lot of time to worry about what was ahead or to be homesick. They just had fun, learned where they can go for support and what resources they can access — and got ready for their futures at Ambrose.”