New Student Orientation Welcomes Freshmen Virtually and in Person

Kelly Christ, Opinion Editor

Fordham University’s New Student Orientation will have a different look this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, consisting of both virtual and in-person elements.

The orientation coordinators for the 2020 New Student Orientation provided a joint statement to The Fordham Ram regarding their upcoming orientation plans. They are Bella Iazzetta, FCRH ’22, and Luke Vernaci, FCRH ’22, orientation coordinators for staff training and development; Emma Sammons, FCRH ’21, orientation coordinator for marketing and communications and Bobby McCormick, FCRH ’21, orientation coordinator for operations and logistics. 

This year’s orientation utilizes a hybrid model consisting of an entirely virtual option to accommodate students who have opted to stay home or are required to quarantine before the start of classes. There will still be small in-person groups of students with their orientation leaders for students on campus.  

The orientation schedule has been released via the Fordham Orientation mobile app. Information hubs will be held by orientation leaders at residence halls throughout the day on Sunday. Multiple virtual events will be held, including an information session for student-athletes, a multicultural reception, a Fordham Families panel and a student technology overview. The president’s address and new student welcome mass will both be held virtually. 

The day will also include small groups and a barbecue held in-person, with a virtual option given to students who have opted out of in-person orientation. The traditional candle lighting ceremony for the incoming freshmen will be held on Sunday night via Zoom. 

On Monday, academic welcomes and informational sessions will be held via Zoom throughout the day. Small groups will be held again in the evening. A #RamInvolved panel will be held in McGinley Ballroom and streamed virtually as well. An LGBTQ+ and Ally reception will be held outside of Cosi. Orientation will host an outdoor movie night on Edward’s Parade. 

Tuesday will include a welcome from the Dean of Students, Christopher Rodgers, a webinar about healthy relationships and a keynote speaker, Ed Gerrity. 

“We hope to keep the same Ramily spirit as always,” the coordinators said. 

Earlier this summer, the Summer Orientation Programs, smaller programs for incoming students that take place before orientation, were made entirely virtual. The incoming students were introduced to their group members and group leaders via Zoom. 

“It was definitely a different experience and needed a lot of changes in the programming and behind the scenes side, but it was so much fun,” the coordinators explained in their statement. “It was all hands on deck, both from the orientation team and Fordham faculty.” 

While the staff said they hope to preserve as many of the New Student Orientation traditions as possible, they remain committed to maintaining everyone’s safety.

“Students who are doing orientation in-person must remain masked and six feet apart,” the coordinators said. “There will be hand sanitizer and to-go meals. We are taking COVID super seriously and want to make sure our team and the incoming students do too.” 

In addition to COVID-related safety precautions, the orientation process added new elements related to diversity and inclusion.

“We have given more time to the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) in both training and actual orientation, had an internal Zoom discussion with our team on how we can improve, met with clubs like ASILI, and continually provided anti-racist, LGBTQ+ and leadership information and materials to our team over the summer,” the coordinators said. “We want to make sure everyone is educated on any topic that the new students might bring up.” 

Throughout the summer, the orientation coordinators hosted several Zoom sessions to give new students a chance to connect before the school year. These sessions covered various topics, including one about on-campus life and another for first-generation college students. 

“We know these changes are a small drop in the bucket, but both the orientation team and incoming students have been so receptive,” the coordinators said. 

The coordinators also noted that the administration decided to have small groups during the summer, which gathered via Zoom.

“We paired our team up and gave them all small groups of incoming students that were in contact over the summer,” they said. “This has also never been done before. Our team was incredible with this.” 

This policy allowed orientation leaders the opportunity to connect with students early on. 

“My co-orientation leader and I have contacted everyone in our group individually via text or phone call,” said Orientation Leader Katie Collins, FCRH ’21. “So, while a lot of things might be up in the air, it has been nice to know everyone a bit better before orientation begins.” 

Rachel Coyle, GSB ’21, expressed her gratitude to this year’s coordinators for all of their hard work. 

“I think the coordinators have been absolutely incredible during this period of time, not only adjusting to COVID but also by tackling some of the deep-rooted issues that Fordham has, particularly in regards to the experience of minorities on campus,” said Coyle, who has been involved with orientation for the last three years. “They’ve made the leaders feel really comfortable to express their concerns and are trying hard to shape orientation in a way that makes it as seamless and supportive as possible for the freshmen.” 

Although the orientation leaders have been in contact with the incoming students, some confusion and uncertainty still remain. Ryan Princip, FCRH ’24, expressed how the process has been a bit unclear for him. 

“I’m just confused [about] how orientation is going to work overall,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of things going on with Fordham and their plans to do hybrid stuff, but there’s nothing specific yet, so it just gets me puzzled.” 

Emma Foley, FCRH ’24, echoed this confusion.

“There’s been a bit of a disconnect for orientation,” she said. “Everyone seems really nice and everything, especially my leaders, but a lot of people that I’m talking to don’t really know what to expect when they get to campus, like how much of it is going to be online, and how it will be socially distanced.”

“Everyone from the students and faculty that I’ve seen on Zoom have been very enthusiastic and assuring us that they have plans in place, but I just wish as incoming freshmen there was more transparency as to what these plans are,” she continued. 

The coordinators said that their Summer Orientation Programs had a positive response from the students. 

“Many of them were excited to be at the Summer Orientation Programs, and our team said they were great in the small groups,” said the coordinators. “They have been signing up for Zooms and calling/emailing with questions. They have also been participating in the summer groups, which is awesome.” 

The coordinators said that the staff is working hard to ensure that orientation remains a welcoming and comforting experience for new students.

Isabella Kilbride, FCRH ’22, said she is aware of this year’s orientation staff’s responsibility. 

“I feel like I have such an important job to introduce these students to Fordham in such an uncertain time,” Kilbride said. “I have to be able to show what a stable and constant home Fordham is when quite frankly someone just could say the opposite.” 

The orientation coordinators said they understand the hesitancy incoming students may have this year. 

“There is definitely some hesitancy to come to campus. College is a huge leap in itself, even without the pandemic,” the coordinators said. 

The staff remains confident that this year will maintain the exciting and welcoming spirit of traditional orientation. 

“We tried to keep as much as possible the same, but with the COVID-19 safe spin,” said the coordinators. “We for sure feel like the orientation spirit only grew through all of this! We cannot thank our team enough for that.”