Orientation hits highs and lows with new students

by Beacon Staff • September 12, 2007

Orientation Leaders (OLs), like cocker spaniels on copious amounts of caffeine, bound up to the car and pull out a terrified new student. After the car is unloaded and the student whisked off to his or her room, the process is started all over again with the newest arrival.

Emerson has opted for a high-energy approach when it comes to orientation.

"We're in such a huge city that we have to make sure all of our bases are covered," said Jay MacFadgen, chairperson of domestic orientation and senior marketing communication major.

The highly orchestrated move-in is not only a logistical necessity in Boston. It also helps the students feel welcome in their new home.

Bettina Warshaw, a freshman theater studies major, moved from upstate New York to attend Emerson.

"It was fun," she said. "At the beginning of the week there was a lot of enthusiasm."

Due to the increased number of students and additional dorms, the move-in was more hectic than usual, according Sharon Duffy, associate dean of students.

"What makes our orientation different is the energy and enthusiasm put forth by our OLs and Resident Assistants in welcoming our newest Emersonians," Duffy said. "Other colleges have a summer orientation program to help retain accepted students, but our students know that they want to be at Emerson and in the city of Boston, so we are able to offer our program the week before classes begin."

However, the weeklong absence of hometown friends and family left a few students feeling as though the time was not well spent.

"Most people [I know] go for two days. We're here for an entire week. I would have much rather spent the time at home with my family," said Taylor Gearhart, freshman organizational and political communications major.

The events, including the Dating Doctor, Hooray!, and a safety video were created by the orientation staff to convey everything that the new students will need for the upcoming year.

"I attended most of the evening events. I felt like, for the most part, people already had friends to go with, but even with my group around me I was able to meet new people," said Laura Bellucci, a freshman writing, literature and publishing major.

The additional living quarters in the DoubleTree Hotel and the Courtyard Marriott Hotel came as a surprise not only to the staff and faculty, but also to the people arranging the logistics of orientation.

"Originally we thought that we had just the two buildings [Piano Row and The Little Building]. Then we got word of the DoubleTree and the Courtyard Marriott," MacFadgen said. "We were able to change things and accommodate it throughout the summer."

Because the students were more spread out than the college had originally anticipated, the programs set up by the orientation staff were the best place to get acquainted with the rest of the new students.

Despite this, the major events, which were coordinated in the hopes of ice-breaking and class bonding, were not entirely well-received.

Freshman marketing communication major Jessica Roubadeaux was disenchanted with the atmosphere and the lack of emphasis on academics.

"To me, some of the events were unnecessary and didn't deliver what they were looking for, like the job fair," Roubadeaux said.

Ross Girard, a junior TV/Video major and second-year OL, credits his move-in as one of the factors that put him at ease with the school.

"I was so overwhelmed by their enthusiasm that I actually forgot about all my worries entirely. Throughout the week, the orientation events and the staff's positive attitudes really helped me to open up and meet a lot of new people," Girard said.

The experience of energetic madness did not enthrall all of the new students.

"I feel like I'm on a cruise. A lot of the events were a little ridiculous," Roubadeaux said. "It felt like summer camp."

Many students found the orientation process helpful, but lengthy and somewhat unnecessary.

"There is some cheesiness, but what do you expect?" Gearhart said. "There are a bunch of nerd-buckets here. They need to bond. But I'm a big fan of nerd-buckets."