For reasons both academic and social, UC Davis is converting new-student orientation from a series of three-day sessions during summer into a single, five-day program for all freshmen and transfers at the same time — about 9,300 students — immediately before the start of classes next fall.
Building off recommendations from a review by the National Orientation Directors Association, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter in May 2018 charged a steering committee of faculty and staff to oversee the transition. By the time the new format rolls out, detailed planning will have been underway for nearly two years.
In addition to providing more time for students to get to get to know one another and learn about the campus’s wealth of resources, a particular highlight of the new orientation also will feature a series of faculty-led seminars focused on strategies to succeed at UC Davis.
“We’ve heard from many faculty that they wish there was a way to help all students know what is expected of them, before the exams and papers start being due,” said Carolyn Thomas, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Education, a member of the steering committee that has been working for more than a year on the Orientation 2020 project.
Under the new format, Thomas said, faculty will present mock lectures aiming to help students learn various strategies for success. Examples might include:
- How to read a syllabus and manage their time so they can prepare well for the work that lies ahead.
- How to take notes, so the students have the key elements to study after a lecture.
- How to read so they can get the most out of the ideas they are confronting.
- Why and how to attend office hours, so more students will take advantage of this learning opportunity.
Even with a five-day orientation on campus, students will have the opportunity to learn a lot before they get here. This includes meeting virtually with academic advisors, registering for classes and taking advantage of online modules called “Aggie 101.”
Under the old format, students would meet in person with academic advisors and register for classes. Now they’ll be doing all this by computer, phone or other device (and students will still have time, during orientation week on campus, to meet with advisors).
The first day of orientation will include group meet-ups and ice-breakers, and individual college welcomes, and, at UC Davis Health Stadium, dinner and festivities.
Academic seminars will be spread over three days in multiple lecture halls, and, when not attending seminars, students will participate in college programming and academic advising, departmental open houses, Biking 101, campus tours and more.
The schedule also includes diversity programming and violence intervention and prevention training.
The Aggie Orientation 2020 website states: “The transition from high school or community college to our campus is challenging; the pace is faster, classroom expectations are higher, the scale is larger and the culture is more complex.
“New elements [in orientation] will better enable new students to understand the academic and social experience of a UC Davis education, and how they can draw on many different levels of academic and personal support during their first year at UC Davis.”
With a less compressed orientation schedule overall, officials aim to give students even more time to adjust to university life, as well as opportunities to build community in multiple dimensions. For example, orientation will include events for all new students together as well as activities organized by colleges and residence halls.
The new program also will feature new, dynamic online information that students will be able to refer to throughout their preparation to register for classes and arrive on campus. And University Registrar Erin Crom is looking to streamline the registration process.
While this transition requires a tremendous amount of planning and work, the steering committee is confident that it will pay off to the benefit of new students. “We are providing new resources and training to prepare our front-line advising staff for the new orientation program, and they are excited about the opportunity to further enhance the already exceptional service they provide to our students,” said Karl Mohr, assistant executive vice chancellor and chair of the steering committee.
Move-in is moving
With students coming to campus a week before classes begin, the university will adjust the move-in schedule to come right before orientation, so that next fall’s schedule looks like this:
- Wednesday-Thursday, Sept. 23-24 — Move-in (some students will move in earlier)
- Friday-Tuesday, Sept. 25-29 — Orientation (including the weekend)
- Wednesday, Sept. 30 — First day of instruction
Additional adjustments will be necessary this coming year because move-in will be during the week (whereas in the past it’s been a weekend event). Specific logistics are still being worked out, but suffice to say parking restrictions will be in place in some lots near student housing buildings and alternative transportation options are planned to be available on move-in days.