When it comes to phrases spoken by collegiate professionals, this string of words might be the most commonly heard within the last three months: “Things are going to look a little different this year, let’s just play it by ear.” The Concordia Orientation Committee said just the opposite.
Concordia College’s orientation began on August 23 and ran through August 26. This year, as new students rolled into campus, the Concordia Orientation Committee had to modify many aspects of orientation to accommodate social distancing, while still remaining true to the spirit of a traditional Concordia orientation.
The Concordia Orientation Committee had to create a welcoming and safe environment for both first-year and transfer students, accommodate students who were new to the college experience and show them the first steps towards success. They also had to be mindful of students with disabilities and other accommodations. This process was both technical and social, and created schedules that were both inclusive of students and activities, without adding too much of a burden on the incoming students. The committee wanted to make sure new students feel both welcome, and safe, in a way that invited positive academic progress and friend-making.
When asked about the committee’s purposes, Megan Parkinson, the special populations and inclusivity coordinator, said, “One of our main goals is to build connections among the students themselves.”
Building connections can be seen within the existence of orientation clubs. These clubs play ice breaker games and other activities that promote platonic bonds. This year some games had to be altered to meet social distancing standards, while some more physical games were fully removed. Some classics like “Big Booty,” remained. The committee also showcased the resources available at Concordia, as well as showing off campus through small tours, and creating a comfortable environment for students to flourish and grow during their college career.
Carson Selander, the Orientation Chair and Hands For Change coordinator, commented on some difficulties in scheduling.
“We wanted to make sure everyone was able to social distance and feel as comfortable as they could be,” said Selander, who has been a member of the orientation committee since 2018.
Social distancing was achieved by spacing out the normal events usually held during orientation. Carson also said this year’s schedule was “a lot less intense,” as planning had to revolve around safety and wellness over general socialization. The welcome show and convocation were both canceled, but knowing the importance of the beanie toss, the committee created a smaller version of the classic Concordia event. They payed close attention to the social guidelines and created spaces for conversation, but also social distancing.
When it came to transfer students, the orientation process generally stayed the same, aside from the lack of a group tour and the usual trip off campus. With all these requirements and necessities, the committee, in the end, completed their goal – to give the students a place to learn and have fun.
Katie Waugh, a first-year student, said, “I met one of my closest friends right now during orientation, so that was super nice to be able to bond with more people.”
In a crazy time, and a completely uncertain future, the success of the Concordia Orientation Committee helped build a foundation for new students. The success of pulling off an orientation that, even through the current conditions, still was filled with Cobber spirit, showed us that even in uncertain times, making friends is still possible, and we all could use some orientation.