“There I was high-fiving graduates; a week later I’m high-fiving students coming in,” said Terry Hill, left, director of the Office of Orientation & Transition (OTP). “The cycle continues.”
About 180 students attended a two-day orientation session that started June 20. It was the first of several orientations OTP is conducting this summer to welcome 750 to 800 first-year students and about the same number of transfers, Hill said. OTP also holds sessions for parents.
The goal of orientation is to connect new students with campus resources and to give them a sense of belonging. It is a continuation of the introduction to life as a Husky that begins when students are first accepted to UW Bothell in the spring. Orientation leaders, who are student OTP employees, contact the new students to answer any questions and share insights, drawing from their own experiences. They start developing the personal relationships that are a hallmark of a UW Bothell education.
This year, 15 student orientation leaders (or OLs) can be seen taking groups of students on tours, usually under color-coded balloons. The OLs remain in contact with new students through their first quarter and work through the year with other students who enter in later quarters.
They go beyond guides. They see themselves as mentors.
More than a campus tour, the orientation experience includes talks, workshops and activities that encourage students to think about majors, careers and more. Sessions outline high-impact opportunities such as undergraduate research, study abroad and community-based learning. Students can ask questions of academic and peer advisers, learn about financial aid and then register for fall quarter classes. Other sessions explain standards of student conduct and invite the newcomers to network, learn about the diversity on campus, and make new friends through games or by hanging out at the community center in Husky Village.
One of the new students at a recent orientation was Nihal Sandadi. A Running Start student from Skyline High School in Sammamish, Washington, Sandadi’s academic career is already under way with an associate degree from Bellevue College. He wanted a university in western Washington because “I’m not that big a fan of traveling around” and wanted to make sure his credits would transfer.
Sandadi also chose UW Bothell because he could directly enter the Computer Science and Software Engineering major. Sandadi, who has a black belt in karate and enjoys reading books on philosophy, is confident in his transition to a new campus.
But many first-year students, right out of high school, have concerns beyond which program to pursue. They wonder about making social connections, said Carrie Newman, the OTP assistant director who has been working in orientation as both a student and a staff person for 11 years at several institutions.
“They think they’re the only person who thinks that, but in reality almost every new student is worried about fitting in,” said Newman, left. “We know that when students feel connected to campus and feel a sense of belonging here that they are more successful academically as well.”
As she welcomed the initial group, Newman promised, “You’ll feel a sense of community on this campus.”
Some of the orientation leaders with balloons that help them organize their color-coded groups: clockwise from left: Amisha Issack, Catherine Vallejo, Serena Tseng, Marco Lizarraga, John Xie, West Lawrence and Denny Park. / Douglas Esser photo