Annual orientation welcomes freshmen

Gregory Doyle

Over 1,600 incoming freshmen and transfer students participated in the 2009 New Student Orientation from Aug. 20 to 23. The four-day program included presentations and activities to help the incoming freshmen and transfer students become acclimated with their new college environment.

Orientation has a history that dates back to 1975, according to the program Web site. Over the years, the program has developed into a staple of the Villanova experience.

The program witnessed several changes in its administrative staff this year. Alicia Dunphy-Culp, the new director of Orientation and Special Events, worked hard to bring fresh ideas to Orientation while maintaining its longstanding culture.

“My role with Orientation is to work with the Steering Committee and staff, to coordinate the schedules and communicate with new students over the summer,” Dunphy-Culp said. “Villanova’s Orientation program has a lot of traditions and has been around for a long time. I was impressed with how organized the students were and how it was really a student-run program.”

Junior Jimmy Kane, the administrative coordinator, worked mainly behind the scenes to ensure each event ran smoothly. Kane also worked as an administrative assistant last year.

“I was in charge of ordering food and arranging and setting up each program,” Kane said. “I worked with Public Safety and Dining Services and supervised the 19 administrative assistants.”

Also new to the administrative staff was student chairperson David Ederer, who worked with Kane and the Steering Committee to oversee the entire program. This was Ederer’s third year in the Orientation program. He was a member of the Steering Committee last year and an Orientation Counselor the year before.

“Alicia was new, I was new and we had a lot of ideas for the program that involved reorganizing it a little bit, shuffling the schedule of events and transforming some of the programs,” Ederer said.

Particularly, the Health Promotion events underwent several alterations. Three distinct, but interrelated, programs were fused together this year to create a comprehensive, interactive program.

Preparations for Orientation began long before the new students arrived on campus.

“We, as a Steering Committee, came together in January to start the process,” Kane said. “We bonded as a team, but also began our weekly meetings and prepared for the Orientation Counselor interviews in February and March.”

The Steering Committee begins working in January when they organize certain facets of the program, according to Ederer. Their responsibilities range from integrating the staff through workshops to purchasing T-shirts. As such, they are regarded as the backbone of Orientation, according to the program’s Web site.

For Dunphy-Culp, the Orientation process for next year will begin within the next few weeks.

“We select the student chair, administrative coordinator and Steering Committee in the fall semester,” Dunphy-Culp said. “Those applications will come out in October.”

The general response from the new students has been a positive one, as they feel welcomed into the Villanova community.

“I got to meet a lot of new people and met some of my best friends in my Orientation group,” freshman Shane Rand said. “I think it helped me get acquainted with the school.”

Orientation creates a common ground for all new students to share, helping initiate conversations and friendships.

“I was able to find a circle of people outside of my Orientation group to talk with about what we had to do each day,” freshman Sean Devlin said.

Rand and Devlin agree that, because of Orientation, they feel a greater connection to the Villanova community. The newfound friendships and familiarity of the campus contribute to a sense of belonging at Villanova.

“The transition into college is different for everyone,” Dunphy-Culp said. “For some it’s academics, for others it’s living in residence halls. We’re here to ease that transition.”

Through Orientation, new students are able to understand and appreciate the sense of community that Villanova promotes almost immediately.

“There are two times when the entire class is together — the Commissioning Ceremony and graduation,” Ederer said. “Very rarely do you have an entire community come together to work toward one goal.”