Students will participate in online modules with interactive content and virtual live events throughout August in preparation for the fall 2020 semester.
By Kristen Mitchell
From virtual trivia nights to online fitness classes, George Washington University is bringing the connectivity of New Student Orientation into the homes of incoming and first-year students.
Earlier this month the university launched a comprehensive, month-long virtual orientation experience consisting of online modules with interactive content and virtual live events to acclimate students and families to the GW community. While orientation looks different this year, Senior Associate Dean of Students Colette Coleman said university leaders and the orientation team have kept the principles of connection and student support at the center of everything they do.
“I know that joining us virtually is not what we had envisioned or anticipated for the beginning of your time at GW, but know that our commitment to your GW experience is unwavering,” said Ms. Coleman during a Monday panel discussion with new students and families. “We are going to do everything in our power to make it special for you.”
During scheduled virtual events, new members of the GW community will learn about support services available to students, connect with their peers, participate in faculty-led webinars on topics of interest and meet with academic advisers. In small group sessions with their orientation leaders, incoming students have the opportunity to have open and honest discussions about GW and the first-year experience.
New students also have the space to start connecting with student organizations and student leaders to find out how to get involved.
Ms. Coleman said many students are grieving for the experience they hoped to have as they transitioned to college life. When students are able to return to campus, the university plans to give new students the welcome experience they dreamed of. Until then, she urges students to remain optimistic, even in times that are unexpected.
“I want to encourage students to still be open to new connections and experiences, even if it's in the virtual space, and it isn't what they initially thought they would be doing,” she said. “Even with all the things that COVID-19 has thrown at them, COVID has also thrown open doors of opportunity, but they have to be willing to walk through them.”
Each student's orientation schedule will be determined by their region, country or state of residency. These groupings will give students the opportunity to virtually connect with new classmates who are living in the same region in the place of traditional in-person send-off events.
In addition to the virtual programming for students, families also are invited to participate in events to introduce them to the GW community. This includes panels on the impact of COVID-19 on the GW academic and residential experience, dining options and discounts for students, finding and creating community and activism and social change at GW.
The university has looked for innovative ways to provide students with the quintessential GW experience for the fall semester. Faculty members have been hard at work adapting their courses for a virtual learning environment, while traditional university events such as Convocation have been reimagined.
This year students will be able to participate in the revamped Welcome Days of Service, a community service event for first-year students. From Aug. 29 through Sept. 19, the university will offer virtual service opportunities, educational workshops and limited in-person service opportunities. Events will range from workshops on anti-racism, to transcribing historical documents for the National Archives, to helping local teachers prepare for the upcoming school year.