New Student Orientation makes summer changes

Photo by Jim Foster

The bulk of New Student Orientation programs have traditionally been held over the summer, but Teresa Lyons, the current director, is thinking that structural changes may greatly improve the program.

“I would love to see us move from such a heavy summer program, and have orientations that are linked to the priority registration. That would be ideal.”

There are 14 Howl Days throughout summer, and only one per semester during the academic year.

Lyons and her staff of ten student workers and one full time employment hope to have some program in place for the spring 2012 priority registration, which begins this November.

Lyons said that another future improvement was faculty involvement. Over her five years at New Student Orientation, the largest impediment for a strong faculty presence was the fact that faculty are not on contract.

Many staff members participate, including the Housing Director, the Dean of Students, and Director of Resident Life.

In previous years, deans for each college have spoken at the Howl Day for their specific college. The deans normally speak during the advising component. Lyons hopes to bring this back soon.

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Students that choose to attend a howl day check in at 8am that morning. They begin the day with breakfast, a t-shirt, and a UAA chat. These “Wolf Pacs” are taught by orientation leaders, and are a new feature to the program.

Here is a sample:

“UAA is mighty cool,/ Green and gold is what we do/ Seawolves howl and prowl the hall/ We paint out pride upon the walls/ U-A-A….SEAWOLVES.”

Students then complete a pre-orientation survey. The survey helps staff collect basic information and to use that information to address students’ needs, such as veteran status or financial need.

This summer, students and parents now take a post-survey after completing the program. During the afternoon, staffers review the survey results then determine what questions should be asked in the second survey. Lyons said that this helps cover issues that the first questionnaire may have missed.

A new session called “safe side” was also added to the Howl Day programs. The session aims to warn students about government laws and how they apply on campus. Presenters include Star (Standing Together Against Rape) and AWAIC (Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis.

“A lot of students think that domestic violence is between a wife and a husband or a girlfriend and a boyfriend, they don’t see that as a law that applies to roommate situation if you’re living in the residential community. If you push your roommate because you didn’t like something they did, then you open yourself up to be accused of domestic abuse. A lot of students don’t know that,” Lyons said.

On the July 18 Howl Day for undeclared and CAS majors, students fly from Florida, Texas, and rural Alaska.

For some students, orientation is the one thing that keeps them at UAA.

“One student brought a friend who was thinking about leaving the state, but this experience at orientation as shifted her mind about staying in the state.  We’re very excited when that happens,” Lyons said.