New Cats on the Prowl

By Danielle LightnerStaff Writer This summer, several groups of entering freshman and transfer students have attended Western Carolina University’s orientation program in an overall endeavor to learn more about Western and what to expect when they begin or continue their college experience in the fall. As freshman enrollment at Western Carolina University continues to rise, the Orientation department on campus strives to offer an unbeatable program in an effort to ensure new students make a well rounded adjustment to life at Western. According to Director of Orientation Programs, Tammy Haskett, orientation is an extremely important event that corroborates the appeal of Western to its new students in an effort to gain their attendance in the fall. “For the University, it is kind of what seals the deal for those students and whether or not they make the decision to come here and be with us,” said Haskett. This summer, according to Haskett, Western will have hosted six freshman orientation sessions and two transfer orientation sessions before the fall semester. “It [orientation] is expected of all new students; it helps them transition from High School to the college level,” said Haskett. While both freshman and transfer orientation sessions offer students the chance to become acclimated to Western’s campus, they are different in that they offer different programs in order to best accommodate the contrasting needs of these students. Freshman orientation sessions operate on a two day schedule, while transfer sessions only operate on a half day schedule. According to Haskett, the reason for this difference is because transfer students have already become acclimated to college life and only need to make minor adjustments when coming to Western. For freshman, their orientation day begins when they check into Scott Residence Hall at 10 am. These students then report to the Ramsey Center to begin their information filled day by meeting and greeting with student clubs and organizations as well as local businesses. During this time, the businesses, clubs and organizations have booths set up where they promote their services and activities. In addition, many of the businesses offer students free giveaways, coupons and chances to win prizes. Once the initial check-in and meet and greet is completed, students separate from their parents to join a group of around 15 other students headed by an Orientation Counselor who is a current Western student. Once the students are introduced to their orientation counselors, the group takes some time to introduce eachother and participate in a light ice-breaker activity. According to both Haskett and participating freshman orientation students, orientation counselors play a vital role in making these new students feel welcome on Western’s campus. “Our orientation counselor has made it very worth while” said entering freshman student Emily Ingle. After getting to know one another, students, with the guide of their orientation counselors begin their adventure in getting to know about Western’s campus as well as what college life is going to be like. Students learn about college life at Western through different engaging activities such as a classroom experience with a professor, and an interactive, up all night experience which takes place in the evening in Scott residence hall. According to Ingle, the most important information she learned from orientation was to go to class and read her summer reading book. The students are not the only ones who get to spend the day attending fun interactive learning activities. While separated from their students, parents are given the opportunity to attend seminars that inform them on college life at Western as well learning how to cope with their students leaving home and beginning their college journey. While orientation offers fun and engaging activities for both students and parents to participate in, it also offers them a chance to make sure all monetary, paperwork, rooming information, and health records are up to date so that students will not encounter any problems before starting school in the fall. At the end of their orientation experience students receive their summer reading book, “Three Cups of Tea” by, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, as well as their first Western schedule. According to orientation counselor Romie Patel, one of the most important aspects of orientation is to give first time students the opportunity to become excited about becoming catamounts in the fall. “We have got to meet a whole lot of new people here at orientation” said Ingle when asked if orientation had been a fun experience. According to Patel, it is important for Western to offer superior orientation programs in order to retain attending students for the fall semester. “For me personally, orientation was the reason I came to Western Carolina University,” said Patel.