Student orientation leaders poised to ease newcomers’ transition to campus life

Students arriving on Norwich University’s reopened campus signal that the fall semester is on its way. And a student orientation squad stands ready to ease newcomers' transition.

The 14-student squad comprises a dozen civilian students and two Corps of Cadets members from class years 2021 to 2023 and a plethora of majors. They will explain campus acronyms (No, the UP is not the Upper Peninsula, it’s the Upper Parade Ground, right up the hill), explain customs (We stay off the Upper Parade Ground grass, leaving it for Corps drills and parades) and explain the map (Yes, the hockey arena and library are both Kreitzberg, but they’re different buildings on opposite ends of campus).

The group, overseen by Paul Putney and Brad Gallimore, company mentors to the Corps of Cadets, are advising the group, which student coordinators Haley Bechard, an incoming junior, and Maranda Ruggles, an incoming senior, are leading.

“I’m determined to give it my all and enjoy the most out of this new experience. I hope to help my peers ease into this new journey and be able to provide insight and guidance as much as possible.” Chey Khoury, Norwich University senior

A series of virtual activity days will run Aug. 21 to Aug. 27. The Aug. 21 schedule features virtual welcomes by President Mark C. Anarumo, Provost Sandra Affenito, Deans Edward Kohn (College of Liberal Arts), Michael McGinnis (College of Science and Mathematics), Col. Matthew Smith (College of National Service), Aron Temkin (College of Professional Schools) and Martha Mathis (Dean of Students), along with Bechard and Ruggles.

On-campus activities, including a movie night, a bonfire with s’mores, a Paine Mountain hike and a tie-dye activity, are scheduled from Aug. 28 through Aug. 30, preceding the Aug. 31 start of classes.

Chey Khoury, a criminal justice major entering her senior year, said she joined the student orientation crew to instill a sense of normalcy and a dash of warmth amid the pandemic’s disruption.

“Since this is my last year, I really wanted to leave behind my own legacy and live up to the school’s motto,” Khoury said in an email.

Repaying kindness

Katie McCoy, a nursing major entering her sophomore year, said she wanted to ease the new students’ starting-college anxiety and return the favor the 2019-20 orientation squad gave her.

“I can’t wait to be back,” McCoy, an Honors Program student and Student Nursing Association representative, said in an email. “I hope my peers are feeling the same way, even though things aren’t going to be so typical this semester.”

arrival 2020 2 min
Norwich University staff helped direct traffic as a convoy of cars arrived over the weekend delivering the Fall 2020 semester’s first students. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Ruggles, a senior biology major and student orientation coordinator, said she’d planned to join the squad before the March campus infection curve-flattening shutdown. She said that given the uncertainty she and Bechard, a nursing major, were offered the chance to cede their leadership spots last spring. Both declined.

“This is what Norwich has been preparing me for,” Ruggles wrote in an email. “As a leader, you have to be ready for every curveball thrown your way. A good leader doesn't back down when the route is no longer a straight line but pushes through to find the solutions necessary to complete the task even in a difficult situation.”

As they impart the campus compass, the student orientation squad will also explain the ethos behind the “I Will Try” and “Norwich Together, Norwich Forever” slogans. In prearrival comments on their Norwich feelings, many students likened the university community to a family.

Gabi Calderon, a junior education major and civilian student, said Norwich’s support system stokes discovery and radiates empathy and inclusion. Senior Emily Roberts, a computer security and information assurance major and civilian student, agreed with Calderon; she said Norwich students come together in crises like the pandemic.

Seeing opportunity

Many orientation teammates touted Norwich’s opportunities. Meredith Osburn, a junior nursing major, cited internships and job connections, some through alumni, that will build résumés. Katie McCoy, a sophomore civilian student, cited professor guidance and experiences that sharpen skills and encourage leadership.

Anissa Powell, a senior criminal justice major and civilian student, said Norwich freed her to tackle new challenges and learn from mistakes. Calderon echoed her.

arrival 2020 5 min
Students and parents got to know a representative of Norwich University’s Corps of Cadets during on-campus arrivals last weekend. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

“(Being a Norwich student) means having the courage to always try new things,” she wrote, “finding out who you are and being proud of who that is.”

Khoury spent the summer with his family in Glendale, Arizona, outside Phoenix, wondering how campus life would feel with classroom capacity shrunk and the on-campus head count curtailed. However, as the clock ticked toward arrival day, she said apprehension was giving way to excitement.

“I know there will be some hard days, but it will be worth it compared (with) all the good I’ll do,” Khoury wrote. “I’m determined to give it my all and enjoy the most out of this new experience. I hope to help my peers ease into this new journey and be able to provide insight and guidance as much as possible.”

Ruggles spent the summer here in Vermont, in West Burke. She said she felt a level of relief as virus cases stayed low in her village and state as they spiked in other locales. She said with the university’s efforts to ensure student health and safety and the squad’s thoughtful planning, she hopes to deliver a sense of welcome and solace.

“I hope to bring that same safe feeling to my peers (who) haven’t had it in the past few months,” she said.

(Slideshow photos by Mark Collier.)

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Here’s a sampling of events:

  • Aug. 21: Virtual welcomes by President Mark C. Anarumo, Provost Sandra Affenito, Deans Aron Temkin (College of Professional Schools), Michael McGinnis (College of Science and Mathematics), Edward Kohn (College of Liberal Arts) and Col. Matthew Smith (College of National Service) and Martha Mathis (Dean of Students), and Bechard and Ruggles.
  • Aug. 22: Virtual address by Circle of Change Leadership Experience founder and President Joshua Fredenburg.
  • Aug. 24: Virtual presentations by the Academic Achievement Center, Career and Internship Centers and Kreitzberg Library.
  • Aug. 25: Virtual session on Norwich traditions and history.
  • Aug. 26: Virtual “Surviving the Semester” seminar with the Rev. William Wick. Session on showcase and engagement activities.
  • Aug. 27: Virtual Academic Day activities.
  • Aug. 28: Arrival day for freshmen who hadn’t yet arrived; move-ins and COVID-19 safety training. Bonfire with lanterns and s’mores.
  • Aug. 29: Get-to-know-you and fun sessions with orientation leaders. Tie-dye activity. Class of 2024 movie night.
  • Aug. 30: More fun sessions with orientation leaders; Paine Mountain hike; student oath ceremony; rook barbecue.
  • Aug. 31: Classes begin.

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