"Welcome to the Redhawk Nation!" With these words, Jake Diaz, vice president for Student Development, enthusiastically welcomed Seattle University's class of 2016 at last week's "Summer in Seattle" orientation.
The two-day orientation sessions help students prepare for the fall and remove many of the anxieties-by students and parents alike-that understandably go along with the start of college. Incoming students get to know the campus better, receive their fall quarter schedules, sit in on classes, visit the residence halls where they will live, meet some of their classmates and just generally become better acquainted with pretty much all aspects of SU life.
In addition to four on-campus orientation sessions taking place this month, a fifth is held in Hawaii for incoming students who live there. Taking a very momentary breather last week, between the first and second on-campus sessions, Laurie Prince, director of New Student and Family Programs, shared that most of SU's incoming freshmen will be attending the sessions-about 780 are expected for the on-campus sessions and 60 at the Hawaii gathering.
At last week's first session, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., encouraged the incoming students to begin to think, "How can I have the full Seattle University college experience?"
"Start with your foundation in academics: professors," Father Sundborg continued. "Did you know that for any open position of professors that we advertise, we have 100 people apply for them? We've got the best professors you could possibly have at Seattle University. They're interested in your learning."
If the orientation sessions are any indication, SU's incoming freshmen are more than ready to avail themselves of the university's very full plate of academic and co-curricular offerings. "This seems to be a very energetic class," Prince said. "One colleague who gave a presentation (at last week's orientation) told me this was the most interactive group he's ever had. Usually they're pretty shy."
The new students' apparent comfort with their soon-to-be university might be explained to some extent by the virtual connections many of them make with SU and each other long before their arrival for orientation. Since the "Summer in Seattle" program was launched in 2006, social media has emerged as an increasingly significant force in the process, said Prince. Each year the Admissions Office creates and administers a Facebook page for students during the admissions process; as students commit to SU and start preparing for fall, Prince's staff takes the baton in overseeing the page. "We've seen a lot of growth (on the Facebook page) over the past couple years," said Prince, "and this year it's been more heavily used than ever before."
One new element in this year's program, Prince said, was to provide more formalized opportunities for parents to explore the surrounding neighborhood during the evenings while their students are busily involved in orientation activities. Her office collaborated with Admissions to secure some discounts at restaurants, stores and other destinations on Capitol Hill.
Speaking of the of the overall orientation program, Prince said she was "gratified by how the entire university comes together to pull this off. Based on what we hear particularly from parents, there's a real sense that this is a campus-wide experience and that we are conveying a consistent and authentic message."