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Orientation 2012, New and Improved

By Middlebury Campus

As a result of student feedback, Orientation for the class of 2016 featured several changes to the schedule of events designed to introduce first-years to life at the college.

“Every year after Orientation we ask first-years to fill out a survey and give us feedback on particular events,” said Associate Dean of Students for Student Activities and Orientation J.J. Boggs. “After we get the results I compile those and send them across campus to the folks who have been involved and ask them to seriously consider the feedback in their planning process. Then we review it over and over again as we’re planning and then again as we’re implementing Orientation.”

One change to Orientation was to the bystander intervention training.

“We love and believe very strongly in the idea of bystander intervention on campus, but I don’t think we as a group hit the mark with how it was presented [last year],” said Boggs. “So this year [the Dean of Students and Assistant Professor of History of Art] Katy Smith Abbott and [Executive Director of Health and Counseling Services] Gus Jordan put their heads together along with feedback from a small core group and designed a training [program].”

The program’s title, designed to bring to mind the College’s mascot, was called P.A.W.S., an acronym that stands for “Pause. Assess. Worried? Speak Up!” Unlike last year, where faculty and staff led training for the class of 2015, the bystander intervention training this year was peer-facilitated.

This year’s First-Year Counselors and Resident Assistants took small groups of first-years across campus to practice skits and learn about scenarios that might require bystander intervention.

“Giving students some control over the direction of the conversation made a pretty dry program more palatable and engaging, which is always desirable when you’re talking about important stuff,” Timothy Crocker ’16 wrote in an e-mail.

Melissa Surrette ’16 also appreciated that the training was student-led.

“We were in a group of 8 people, and we had to come up with skits to show how we would handle each scenario,” she said. “I thought it was helpful to have it be student-run because you could have a student’s perspective on what to do and what your peers would do.”

Another change to Orientation occurred with the sessions titled, “Living Deliberately at Middlebury,” where first-years heard from students and staff about living a balanced and healthy life on campus.

“We’ve done this really differently in the past,” said Boggs. “Two years ago wefocused on PowerPoint presentations on things like hazing and harassment and sexual assault.”

The “Living Deliberately” sessions were two student-led panels, one on diversity and community on campus and one on living a balanced life on campus, with a third session led by a staff member from the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research (CTLR) on time management.

Much like with P.A.W.S., Boggs said the idea of students interacting with other students was appealing.

“What I love is that two of the three [sessions] were facilitated by upper-class students who were talking about their own personal experiences here and offering suggestions to first-years about how to approach things a little differently, maybe in a more healthy, balanced way.”

Upper-class initiative did not stop at the panel discussions. Orientation for the class of 2016 also included a concert Saturday Sept. 8 featuring the group Bad Rabbits.

“The neat thing about [the concert] is there was a lot of input from the students who organize music events on campus,” said Boggs.

Boggs explained that they wanted to hold a concert for the first-years but also make it open to the upperclassmen arriving on campus that Saturday to join the classes for the first campus-wide social event of the fall.

Attention turned back to the class of 2016 on Sunday night with the Arts for a Carbon Neutrality Dessert Social. This year’s first-years will graduate the year the College is scheduled to attain carbon neutrality.

Along with highlighting the 2016 goal, first-year students were given a flash drive rather than the typical welcome packet in order to save paper.

“We’re going to introduce them to the concept of carbon neutrality and what the College has done and what role they can play in making that happen over the next four years,” said Boggs. “So we’re going to end the week on this note of carbon neutrality.”

Surrette, who was involved in a regional environmental council in high school, feels  a big part the class of 2016 will play in the efforts for full carbon neutrality.

“I think it’s really interesting that Middlebury is a full-fledged institution that is going to be carbon-neutral,” she said. “I’m happy I am going to be one of the classes to celebrate in it.”

More changes to Orientation are on the way for the Class of 2017. Those first-years will spend Monday through Thursday on campus for Orientation and then Friday through Sunday on a trip.

“We’re calling the whole experience MiddView,” said Boggs. “The off-campus pieces will look different for each student. It will just depend on what you choose, whether you choose an outdoor adventure, a community service trip or a cultural immersion trip. It could be anything from farming to perhaps exploring politics in Vermont to taking a hiking trip. It’s going to be phenomenal.”

Dylan Peters ’16 was impressed with the current Orientation.

“This past week has served as a great introduction to the Middlebury community and to all of the great people, places and programs this school has to offer,” he wrote in an email. “While I know that there is still much to learn here in my first year, and that I will most definitely make some mistakes, I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly ready to get started.”

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