New students were provided with campus tours, panel discussions highlighting various campus services, and opportunities to meet and interact with course instructors and new classmates, all intended to ease the transition process and make their first interaction with Conestoga both fun and memorable.
While many post-secondary institutions start the year with a ‘frosh week’ that focuses heavily on the social side of school, Conestoga offers a slightly different approach. Mike Dinning, vice-president of Student Affairs, said that “to make this relevant to students, it [the orientation] had to be purpose-driven. The core had to be focused on academic transition.” Structuring the event this way allows Conestoga to focus on getting what Dinning calls all the ‘administrivia’ out of the way - meaning students have the opportunity to get their parking permits, student cards and text books before class starts, so that the first week of school can be focused on learning.
While many of Conestoga’s first-year students are transitioning directly from high school, there are also a large number who are starting (or returning to) post-secondary education from a different point in their lives. According to Dinning, Conestoga deals with “a much different demographic, people who are interested in getting all the information they can to help them be successful in their program.”
According to Dinning, high student participation in orientation activities stands as a testament to the success of the program: “We are asking students to come on their own time (outside of class) and we have over 80% participation. So we definitely are offering something relevant to them.”
As well as sessions for new students, Conestoga also provided information sessions for the parents, friends and family of new students. Designed to answer questions about services and programs available to students, the sessions have become increasingly popular: “When we started these family and friends sessions five or six years ago, we had one session where twelve people showed up. This year we expect close to one thousand people,” says Dinning. “The world has changed. Parents participate, and students whose parents come are comfortable with them being there.”
While the focus of Orientation Week is primarily on academics, the social side has not been forgotten. Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI), the official student association at Conestoga, has events planned during the first week of classes that will focus on the ‘fun and social’ aspects of life at Conestoga and are designed to mix new and returning students.