Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state regulations, Wesleyan is delivering its annual Orientation Program virtually through live Zoom meetings, townhalls, and webinars.
Orientation activities began in mid-July, where members of the Class of 2024 and transfer students participated in sessions on charting a course through the open curriculum, sustainability at Wesleyan, wellness, financial aid, student employment, career center information, and working with an academic peer advisor. They also learned the Wesleyan fight song and participated in virtual social events including a virtual escape room, Jeopardy!, drag race bingo, and a magic show.
Sudbury, Mass. resident Sabrina Ladiwala ’24 chose to defer her on-campus enrollment until the spring semester due to the pandemic, but has participated in several first-year orientation webinars.
“After my orientation meetings, I would hang back to ask the leader a question. Multiple times, that simple exchange led to sharing experiences about what spring term was like for each of us or developed into a really in-depth talk about life on the Wes campus. As I started having more of these conversations, not only did I welcome all the information, but I also enjoyed listening to all the personal, on-campus stories these students told. In spite of sitting in my home, I already felt connected to the community,” she said.
Ladiwala also attended several social events, including a virtual escape room.
“After my group completed this fun exercise, we just stayed back and talked for around 20 or 25 minutes about moving in, what dorms we were in and how quarantine was going for us. Even though I am deferring, I was still included in that conversation which really meant a lot to me,” she said. “Even though orientation is over and classes are starting, I am excited to stay in touch with all my Wesleyan friends and am really looking forward to being on campus in the spring!”
Students also participated in several health and safety webinars on returning to campus, COVID-19 testing, and the importance of quarantine.
During an “End of Summer Bash” social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader in Zoom “breakout rooms.”
Amin Gonzalez, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid led a webinar on financial aid and student accounts on July 20. “We want it to be clear and transparent about the fact that we’re very confident in the educational experience that we’re going to afford students this year, in this pandemic environment, again, both in-person and online,” he said.
Hari Krishnan, chair and professor of dance, spoke during a “Town Hall for the Arts” session on July 22. “Acting and feeling and through the medium of dance, we are able to experience multiple meanings truth and realities and understand the fundamental plurality of human experience,” he said. “As bleak as the world seems right now, we can all come together to generate empathy, kindness, generosity and compassion.”
On Aug. 21, Class of 2024 Dean David Phillips, along with Academic Peer Advisors Darshana Banka ’22 and Chaiyeon Lee ’22 led a conversation titled “Getting and Giving Good Advice.” The panelists discussed the variety of academic and personal support services that are available to students, and offered advice on dealing with personal challenges and helping fellow students.
Chaiyeon Lee spoke about co-curricular life and ways to get involved with groups on campus.
Kieran Duffy, assistant director of Residential Life (pictured), and Fran Koerting, associate dean of students and director of residential life, led a “Residential Life Webinar” on June 29.
On Aug. 18, Rick Culliton, associate vice president and dean of students, presented a “What to Expect During Quarantine” webinar. “Our goal is to be able to isolate a student who may be COVID positive and to allow us the best chance to get through the entire semester without having to close and have students leave.”
On Aug. 27, author and environmental activist Naomi Klein delivered Wesleyan’s First Year Matters (FYM) keynote address. The FYM program helps first-year students establish on-campus community connections, engage in shared learning experiences, explore new opinions and ideas, and acquire the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in Wesleyan’s rigorous liberal arts environment. This year, the Class of 2024 watched and discussed the documentary This Changes Everything, directed by Avi Lewis and based on the award-winning book of the same title by Klein.
Johanna DeBari, director of support, healing, activism, and prevention education, and Seirra Fowler, director of health education, offered a COVID-specific bystander intervention training. “This is all new to us. No one expected to live through a global pandemic,” DeBari said.
Orientation concluded Aug. 28 with the virtual Common Moment. “The one part of orientation that really stuck with me was the Common Moment,” said Sabrina Ladiwala ’24. “To be dancing with everyone, no matter whether you were in your dorm room or at home, made me feel a part of the Wesleyan family because we were all having this shared experience together!”