First-year and transfer students and upperclassmen organizers kicked off the fall semester with a virtual New Student Orientation, an experience that exceeded the expectations of many participants.
This year’s virtual orientation, which commenced Aug. 22, included four days of information panels, ice breakers, group discussions and evening activities. Despite widespread apprehension about the viability and effectiveness of a virtual orientation, many first-year students and NSO staff members said the programming succeeded in welcoming the Class of 2024.
“I think Georgetown did a great job of converting NSO to a virtual format,” first-year student Christina Kanemori (MSB ’24) wrote in an email to The Hoya. “With the situation we’re in, the coordinators really did their best to imitate the in person interactions NSO usually brings.”
Students’ engagement in the virtual program surpassed the modest expectations of many student organizers, several orientation advisers told The Hoya.
Unable to chat on walks between events or gather for late night parties, new students made friends in chat rooms and virtual discussions.
While it was more difficult to meet people, OA group discussions afforded new students opportunities to connect and meet online, according to first-year participant Shevani Tewari (SFS ’24).
“We just met like every few hours over Zoom for like 30 minutes to either discuss what was said in the webinars or just like meet each other,” Tewari said in an interview with The Hoya. “I could tell that they put in a lot of effort into like actually engaging us and also giving us opportunities to meet each other.”
Though NSO’s programming generally received positive feedback, the orientation was not without its hitches.
The university scheduled a new one-hour panel about racial justice, titled “Confronting Racism,” in light of ongoing anti-racism protests ignited by the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans.
Some student orientation organizers complained that the panel’s four required readings included two readings by white authors, one of which was a letter written by University President John DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95), according to student NSO workers affiliated with The Hoya familiar with student conversations about the reading list.
OAs who spoke with The Hoya said some students took particular issue with the fact that the panel dedicated close to 12 minutes of event time to a speech by DeGioia; the panel’s moderator spent the preceding two and a half minutes introducing DeGioia and outlining his qualifications, according to a recording of the event obtained by The Hoya.
After the panel’s conclusion, OAs urged the panelists to continue the discussion indefinitely. Ultimately, the panel finished 30 minutes after its allotted time, cutting into the OA group discussions scheduled after the event.
As a result of the unforeseen delays, many new students did not attend the required discussion about one of the orientation’s keystone events. Some OAs told The Hoya that fewer than half of their group members attended the discussion.
NSO’s programming also focused on mental health and wellness, according to OA Captain Caelin Ivanov (COL ’22). During one health-focused panel, titled “Now Launching: Your Journey to Wellness,” new students practiced meditation techniques and mindfulness exercises.
The dedication of student staff helped make the orientation’s programming engaging and fruitful for new students, according to Ivanov. To stay organized, NSO employees coordinated and scheduled activities on Canvas. OAs also helped host Zoom events to help new students stay engaged outside of scheduled activities.
“Even though there wasn’t that in-person feeling, you could still feel how much effort everyone put into making new students feel welcome,” Ivanov said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
The efforts of NSO organizers did not go unnoticed by first-year participants.
“I could tell that they put a lot of effort into like actually engaging us and also giving us opportunities to meet each other,” Tewari said. “I think that they did a really good job considering the virtual format, and I’m really happy with how it went.”