Many people can say that they remember their first college experiences and we here at Rocky Mountain College try to make those experiences the best they can possibly be. The mission statement for the 2018 Freshmen Orientation was, “To assist students in making a positive transition to college life by preparing them for success in the classroom and within the greater college community.”
This year’s freshmen had unique opportunities not previously offered by New Student Orientation. Some of these events included Explore Downtown Billings, Crow Fair, and Silent Dance Party.
RMC freshman Emma Dobesh said, “I loved orientation; I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better welcome to Rocky. The activities like the Silent Dance Party and the service projects made me confident in my choice of school— I don’t think this kind of stuff could ever happen at a big state university. Two of my best friendships actually came from the academic mentor group we were put in on the last day of orientation!”
This year’s orientation had an extra day added to the schedule. In years past, incoming students would arrive on Thursday morning and events would begin that afternoon. However, this year, new students arrived on Wednesday afternoon. This change was decided in order to help students transition into campus life more easily and not feel as overwhelmed.
“Throughout Orientation, we made notes about the feedback we were receiving and identified areas we made mistakes,” said Tim Lohrenz, director of New Student Orientation, Outdoor Recreation, and Student Activities.
“We will combine that information with the feedback we receive from our assessment of the new students and meetings with our colleagues to determine the course forward. At this time I don’t foresee too many changes to this year’s schedule. Although, I know we will explore the possibility of greater integration of the CliftonStrengths Assessment into the program,” Lohrenz added.
The new schedule left Wednesday afternoon free for students to focus on moving in. This year’s program also listed Sunday as a completely optional day. Students were able to use Sunday as a day to unwind and get ready for classes, but they also had the choice to participate in scheduled activities.
“Honestly, I thought Orientation was kind of dumb at first, but after going to the events offered, I connected with the friend group I have today,” said freshman Hannah Freeman.
Orientation is not just for incoming freshmen. It’s also a chance for all Rocky students to reconnect with old friends and make connections with new students. Student leaders, who are committed to making Rocky the best place they can, often take the time to get to know new faces and encourage the freshman class.
“Student leaders play a critical role in Orientation. Our student leaders are individuals of strong character that want to help others make a positive transition to college life. They are role models for new students. They help new students connect with one another and with the institution. The vibrancy and fun experienced at Orientation comes from the energy and ideas of our student leaders,” said Tim Lohrenz.
This year the Orientation team also tried to bring together transfer students. Senior Melodie Snyder, a transfer student from Centralia College in Washington State and RMC student leader, was the secret weapon to help bridge the gap for those students.
“When I transferred here it was just not a good experience, I wasn’t given the opportunities that we gave this year. I felt like an outsider.” said Snyder.
While in years past transfer students were encouraged to participate in New Student Orientation, there was no set community for these students. This year during the luncheon there was a group specifically for transfer students, as well as making sure they felt welcomed participating in other activities around campus.
While orientation weekend is fun and games for most students on campus, a lot of planning goes into it. Specifically from four people: Tim Lohrenz, Tracy Mouser, Coordinator of Student Activities and New Student Orientation, along with RMC seniors Shannon Fisher, and Melodie Snyder.
For this orientation, the planning began in May and continued into the summer. The four leaders took what they had learned from previous years in order to improve this year’s events. Planning for Orientation not only includes activities such as luau dancers or ice cream trucks, but also what challenge courses will be shown, what orientation leaders should know before going into the program, and getting everything to fit into the schedule smoothly. It is not a simple process, but every year they manage to pull it together and the program is constantly improving each year.