New student Orientation improves academic success and retention rates

University of Nevada, Reno program immerses new students in campus life getting them engaged and ready for their next four years

8/5/2013 - By: Nicole Shearer
New Student Orientation Students attend the opening welcome reception at new student Orientation.

It takes two: two days for the University of Nevada, Reno new student Orientation program to increase student engagement, improve academic success and keep freshmen on-track in their first year and beyond.
 
Since its start five years ago, the University's student Orientation program has seen tremendous success. What use to be a mad dash to get students familiar with the University and their class schedules, has become a well thought-out program designed to get new students familiar with the campus layout, up-to-speed on their classes, clued in on the many academic resources available to them and excited about college life.

Twelve, two-day orientations are hosted throughout the summer with 250 students in each session. Parents are encouraged to attend these sessions as well, which offer a separate orientation track just for them.

"The program breaks down the freshman class into small groups in an effort to purposefully transition students to the University by showing them what life is like here," said Cairn Lindloff, assistant dean of students for New Student Initiatives. "We pack the two days with a variety of activities to really give new students a sense for college life. It is important for a high school senior to realize what an intense and rewarding commitment it is to be at the University."

All students who participate in the Orientation leave with individualized academic plans for their first year along with personalized plans for their long-term academic and personal success. They are given an understanding of the many traditions and rich history throughout the University campus, and they gain an understanding of the expectations by which each student contributes to the University community. A key component of the orientation program is the time spent sharing the vast resources and programs available to each student, which will help ensure their long-term success.

"I had a really good experience at my orientation and that made me want to become an orientation guide for the next year's class," said Camille Berg, a sophomore Veterinary Science major. "Orientation catered to everyone, whether you lived on campus or not, and made me feel welcome."

More than 90 percent of freshman participate in these new student Orientations, and this has contributed to the 10-15 percent increase in retention of students between their freshman and sophomore years.

"I really appreciated my orientation guide's honesty," said Jesse Tenenbaum, an incoming geology major who will be living in the Science Living Learning Community. "She wasn't there to shake a finger at us and tell us what not to do but was open and honest about her experiences."

"Students hear from leaders at the University, spend time in their colleges and with academic advisors and are given the opportunity to get to know other students," said Lindloff. "Our student orientation guides share inside tips and tricks that helped them as they navigated their first year."

Ron Delos Santos is a student orientation guide and junior majoring in management in the College of Business at the University. His experience at orientation was so positive, he's remained an orientation guide into his junior year.

"I thought my guide was super helpful when I went through the program," said Delos Santos. "He motivated me and made me want to have the same impact on other students. I see my role as more of a total University guide who shares experiences that might help new freshman as they come on to campus."

People interested in learning more can meet Ron and Wynter as they share photos and key information for new students about orientation.


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