A new school year is right around the corner. For incoming students, that means New Student Orientation is also just around the corner. But incoming students are not the only new additions this year. The orientation process now includes an online education program and an automatic fee.
Orientation will take place August 21 through 24. It will feature a variety of events that will allow new students to become more acquainted with the faculty, fellow students and workings of the University of Idaho.
Among the events are the University Convocation, an official welcome to UI featuring Keynote Speaker Sean Astin, and a campus tour in which students will participate in tree planting, watershed restoration, food drive efforts and other service projects.
Palousafest, a campus and community fair; and Vandal Walk and President’s Barbecue, in which UI President Chuck Staben will lead students on a walk from the Kibbie Dome to the Administration Building for a barbecue dinner.
While students may chose not to participate in these and similar orientation events, all incoming students will be required to complete Think About It, an interactive online education program focused on sexual assault and substance abuse prevention.
According to Orientation Programming Director Cori Planagan, this is the second year UI has required students to complete the program. Planagan said Think About It was successful in its trial run last year, and the university plans to continue using it in the near future.
“It’s a pretty dynamic and impressive program,” Planagan said. “It gives (students) good information about making informed choices about a variety of situations that they’ll find on a college campus.”
Even though the program is a requirement, Planagan said UI has received mostly positive feedback from students who have completed it.
Senior Orientation Leader and UI graduate student Jenna Putnam said the program is practical and insightful.
“It gives you a lot of practical knowledge … like if you are the sort of person who wants to drink, here’s all the factors that go into how fast you get drunk and that kind of stuff,” Putnam said.
Putnam said the program goes further with information about relationships, and allows participants to work through ways of handling various situations.
“(It has information) on how to recognize abusive relationships as well as what is sexual assault, what is rape,” Putnam said. “It actually makes you go through scenarios and, like, what would you say in this situation, how would you react and what is the legal way to react.”
However, this isn’t the only recent change for orientation. Planagan said this year students are automatically charged for New Student Orientation. Planagan said automatically charging students seems to influence their participation in orientation.
“The fee is automatic this year and it’s part of an automatic charge all new students incur on their fees and tuition,” Planagan said. “It’s going to happen – the charge is going to happen no matter what. So I think that that is changing folks, the way they think about how they are going to participate in orientation. That they should do it because they’re going to be paying for it anyway.”
Despite these changes and requirements, Planagan said students are not required to attend orientation.
“So orientation is not required, although it is strongly recommended. And really, students need to attend orientation,” Planagan said.
Planagan said she enjoys being a part of the orientation process and seeing students begin their college careers.
“It’s wonderful to see the new students come in who are excited to start on this educational journey,” Planagan said.
Putnam said orientation is a great way to immerse oneself in UI and Moscow life before school begins.
“I think it’s really good for just making people feel comfortable at UI. Because, odds are, you are not from here, you’ve probably never been in Moscow,” Putnam said. “And so, it’s kind of a more structured way to say, ‘Here are all the things that can help you, here’s where everything is.'”
Andrew Jenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org