Orientation returns to two-day sessions since pandemic, reports overall success despite challenges

As more areas of our lives and operations have been returning to normal or adapting to the “new normal”, student orientation is one of the many aspects of campus life that has been anticipating the return to in-person engagement. 

New Student Orientation (NSO) director, Josh Thompson, believes that in-person sessions are much more valuable, giving incoming students a way to dip their toes into campus life before diving in head-first during August. In-person sessions can help students learn the layout of campus and provide them with resources for success in ways that may not click virtually. 

“It’s the best way to get off to a good start at WCU,” Thompson remarked over the phone. 

This summer marked the return of two-day orientation sessions since summer 2019. Connor Larmore, a graduate assistant Orientation Staff Coordinator, has worked NSO since 2019. He was “super excited for the return to two-day sessions” and the ability to interact with new students and their families. 

“I really missed getting to make personal connections with incoming students and being able to help them transition to the university in person,” he said via email. 

Thompson reported success during the return of two-day sessions, despite facing challenges such as staffing and transitioning from COVID-adapted sessions. In 2020, student orientation was virtual, taking place through modules. In 2021, it shifted to a hybrid modality, with shorter one-day sessions taking place in person. 

When asked how the return to two-day sessions went, Thompson said he thought it went really well. “I think all of our campus partners and staff worked really hard to put a program together and rebuild and make it a good experience.” Student staff learned valuable skills like event planning, management, and interaction, while professional staff was able to try new things and learn from those, Thompson explained. 

“I think orientation is really a collaborative effort… It takes the entire campus coming together. We’re appreciative of all the programs that helped make it a success,” he concluded. 

Larmore applauded the “top-notch” professional staff and hard-working student staff. 

Over 2,400 students attended orientation this summer, with almost 2,000 of them being first-years and the rest being transfers. This is the largest freshman class in six years.