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The Blue & Gray Press | August 15, 2018

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Mixed Reactions to Orientation Change This Year

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE

Incoming students to the University of Mary Washington were treated to an orientation full of events and new traditions to welcome them to the university.

In an effort to help the students connect to the campus, orientation leaders used Facebook to contact new students and start an open dialogue for questions and comments.

“Orientation leaders are fantastic and have handled everything, minor and major problems, so well,” said Ally Blanck, a senior political science major, as well as a three-time orientation leader and coordinator.

One of the biggest events of the orientation was the Eagle Gathering, a new tradition in which students formed a candlelit procession, led by SGA President Jeremy Thompson and Honor Council President Zandi Larmour.

The candle lighting itself is symbolic and a part of UMW’s identity, as the torch of knowledge is emblazoned on the institutional seal.

Students then gathered on Ball Circle to hear President Rick Hurley speak about UMW’s values.

“Eagle Gathering is a ceremony, a rite of passage for new students where we, as a university, can show our support and care for students in a unique and meaningful way,” said Doug Searcy, vice president of student affairs. “It is also our hope that an intimate ceremony, such as Eagle Gathering, will help further establish key institutional values and priorities.”

According to Searcy, the Welcome Week model currently in place will still be used for the coming years, but UMW plans to offer incoming students a summer orientation, where students and their families can spend a night together on campus in June, when many of the information sessions will be hosted.

Victoria Hansen, a freshman transfer student, attended many of the orientation events.

“It was a great way to meet other people. We did a lot of things, and it was really good that they had so many activities for transfer students,” said Hansen.

While the planned schedule of events from this year’s orientation greatly resembles last year’s, the University was actually able to implement all of the events because there were no weather problems or natural disasters, like the earthquake last year.

Freshman Brittany Cohen was critical to some of the activities for orientation week.

“I liked the ‘play fair’ best,” said Cohen. “I didn’t really like the back-to-back lectures though. They were entertaining but really long.”

Searcy hopes freshmen orientation week will have a lasting impact on new students.

“We would like them to walk away from the ceremony and realize that something important just happened, something they will see as a marker highlighting UMW’s supportive environment as well as high expectations for engagement, academic excellence, and honor that can be found throughout our campus community,” said Searcy.