This Week in Villanova History: September 5, 1980

Marianne Lavelle

Stress management and study skill workshops were two innovations in this years four-day Orientation program for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

This year’s group of orientation counselors were taught “not only to be friends and resource persons, but also to be teachers, to train workshops on stress management and reading and study skills,” said Steven J. Steckler, assistant dean of student activities and Orientation supervisor.

Orientation counselors presented the “Stress Management and Wellness” workshop to the freshmen in their separate orientation groups. The counselors were introduced to the workshop during their week of training by Dr. Jeffrey Pollard, Villanova counseling psychologist.

The “wellness” program is designed to teach one how to successfully manage everyday stress. “It is being aware and having the right frame of mind to handle stress very well,” said Steckler.

“We introduce this at a pivotal period to young adults so that they can manage stress, be assertive about their bodies, learn that they are responsible for their health,” he said.

The Orientation counselors also presented a study skills workshop, which dealt with such problems as how to take multiple choice tests, how to prepare an adequate study environment, and how to take essay exams. Ruth Brackman of the Villanova Counseling Center taught the workshop to the counselors.

In addition to these changes, there was an increase in the number of programs for off-campus residents and commuter students, said Steckler.

The resident students were given more free time, said Steckler, so that they could better adjust to dormitory living.

Orientation Entertainment also underwent changes, said Steckler. “Last year on the first night, we had a band party, and the OC’s had a good time. But the new students just looked at each other and went home.

“This year, we had a professional group called Play Fair come in the first night to do a program of ‘icebreaking’ games for the students. The feedback so far shows that it was very effective,” he said.

On the next nights, students were presented with a wide range of activities to attend including films and a laser rock show. “We respect the fact that each student has different interests and we wanted them to choose what they like best,” Steckler said.

Ellen Tracy, senior nursing student and chairperson of Orientation said she was “amazed and definitely pleased” with the program. “Last year’s program was deeply evaluated so that this year everything would be more organized and thankfully, there were no major problems,” she said.

The coordination of the counselors was done by Tracy, along with Rich Sestak, assistant coordinator, and a group of undergraduates who formed the Steering Committee.

This Villanova Orientation coordination model, designed by Steckler and students previously involved in Orientation has been presented at Orientation workshops in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles and at four colleges across several states by Steckler.

“The staffing model is purposely designed to yield high levels of motivation from the student para-professionals (coordinators) and it has been very effective. It’s a program other schools are looking at,” said Steckler.

“At Villanova, I’d say students have one of the highest levels of responsibility and decision making in an Orientation program,” he added.