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Freshman orientation sessions commence

BY ALISON CRISSMAN | JUNE 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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A new crop of freshmen took the first steps in their college careers on Monday, as the first day of Orientation began.

The class of 2017 will enter the University of Iowa with approximately 4,500 students, continuing a rather new trend in class sizes in recent years, said Michael Barron, the assistant provost for UI Admissions.

As recently as 2009, the incoming freshman class stood at around 4,000 students.

Barron also said that larger class sizes and an increased retention rate have led to a growth in university enrollment.

The UI had 29,802 enrolled students during the spring semester.

In all, 43 UI Orientation Services staff members welcome groups of 16 students during each two-day session, aiding students in understanding the campus, registering for classes, and establishing preliminary social connections. Approximately 300 first-year students make up each session period and are led by student volunteers known as Hawkeye guides.

Jon Sexton, the director of Orientation Services, said the staff members focus on three overarching learning outcomes: confirming in the students’ minds that their decision in attending the UI was the right choice, having students leave with appropriate schedules and a connection with their academic advisers, and helping them establish initial social connections.

To facilitate learning about the university, students participate in Explore Iowa, a course designed to take students on a campus tour that encourages student interaction with their peers and UI officials. On the tour, Sexton said, students listen to a presenter who discusses key academic and student-life resources.

UI junior Emma Boehmer, who serves as a second-year Hawkeye guide and team leader, said her favorite part of Orientation is meeting her group of students.

“I enjoy seeing how the students interact with each other during the first few minutes on Day 1 versus at the end of Day 2,” she said.

Fellow second-year guide and team leader David LaFaire said he also enjoys helping the incoming students.

“My favorite part about Orientation is having students’ concerns put at ease and seeing their choice in attending the University of Iowa confirmed,” he said.

As the new Orientation year begins, Sexton said the UI continues initiatives originally put into place from 2012. Among these include the introduction of Black and Gold Handbooks available on a USB wristband, and the transition to Z-Card maps, small, campus maps the size of credit cards.

The small versions of the maps are designed so that incoming freshmen are less identifiable on campus, Sexton said.

He said by incorporating the handbook into the USB wristband, Orientation Services is able to make changes to any information in the stored documents quickly without having to reprint each page.

“From a sustainability perspective, we cut a lot of the need for paper,” Sexton said.

Last year also saw the implementation of an official Twitter hashtag, used by incoming students to discuss their Orientation experiences.

Sexton said the most prominent change over last year was in the “logistics” of the program.

For example, a new partnership with UI Parking and Transportation officials have resulted in the relocation of overflowing parking from the Hancher parking lot to the North campus parking ramp, behind Burge Hall, Sexton said.

As a result, he said some of the need for busing has been alleviated, aiding in the UI’s sustainability efforts.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said he didn't have an accurate cost of this year's orientation programming.

Zoe Weber, a first-year student from Wheaton, Ill., said she was excited about her Orientation experience and becoming a Hawkeye.

“I’m looking forward to signing up for classes and knowing what classes I will take,” she said. “I’m also excited to meet new people.”

Mary Weber, her mother, echoed her daughter’s excitement.

“I’m excited for her because college is filled with adventures and new experiences,” she said. “I’m excited to hear about those things.”


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