New Student Orientation Revamped

Programming, now to be held for all students in August, aims to enhance the student experience.

New Student Orientation Graphic
January 14, 2019

The George Washington University’s New Student Orientation will now occur in August and this spring will undergo a redesign to develop programming that better integrates first-year and transfer students and their families into the university community.

Formerly called Colonial Inauguration and held in several sessions between June and August, orientation will now begin for all students and families just before the start of the fall semester.

The model more seamlessly integrates new students into the university and will include programming focused on building a sense of community and belonging and supporting students’ academic, social and emotional adjustment, GW officials said.

It also will provide more relationship-building opportunities among students, faculty, staff and administrators and eliminate what was previously a mid-summer trip to campus, easing a financial burden for many families.

The changes are another effort to enhance the student experience.

“Coming to GW—and, for many students, moving into a new home on campus—is a big transition, and we are here to support it,” Laurie Koehler, senior vice provost for Enrollment and the Student Experience, said. “We believe this new orientation model will enhance the student experience by providing a stronger foundation as students join the university community.”

This year’s orientation is scheduled to begin Aug. 21 with Move-In and a kickoff program followed by programming for new students and their families on Aug. 22 and 23. Convocation and Welcome Day of Service is Aug. 24 and the annual First Night event is Aug. 25. Classes begin Aug. 26.

The university reviewed institutional data, benchmarked orientation programs at other universities and discussed the pros and cons of each option with students, faculty and staff across campus before deciding to adopt the August model.

“The decision-making process was data-driven and inclusive of campus partners here and at peer institutions and builds on our many established successes from past programming,” Ms. Koehler said. “In keeping with our institutional goals of collaboration, and with an eye to providing a comprehensive introduction to our increasingly student-centered culture, we are optimistic that our new students will find their orientation experience rich and inviting.”

Over the spring semester committees comprising students, staff and faculty will meet to develop student and family programming, including academic, social, educational and informational sessions. Two student coordinators are helping shape the program and 100 more will join as orientation leaders.

Costas Solomou, dean of undergraduate admissions, said the university is focused on students’ adjustment into the GW community as well as the broader D.C. community.

“Our intention is to invite our new students to actively engage in a participatory process, looking inward and thinking of themselves as academic, social and human beings,” he said. “We continue to believe that presenting orientation as a transformational experience and not simply an opportunity for information exchange will produce a first-year experience that invites earlier engagement and more meaningful relationships.”

New students will receive more information about programming and registering for classes—which will occur in July before they come to campus—as it becomes available. The New Student Orientation website also will be updated as information is available.

Pre-orientation programs, such as those hosted by individual schools or colleges and for international students, will still be held in August before New Student Orientation.

“We’re thinking of orientation as more than just a day or two of programs,” Dr. Solomou said. “By working with other departments across campus, orientation becomes the start of a GW student’s first-year experience.”

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